Fresh Herb Mac and Cheese. Creamy mac and cheese filled with broccoli and ground chicken sausage, and topped with a Panko breadcrumb and fresh herb topping. Kids and adults both will love this stuff.
My three year old son loves mac and cheese. I suppose that’s a general love of all kids, but he gets so excited about having it, that it’s really fun to give it to him. However, when mac and cheese is served solo, it just doesn’t seem like the healthiest of meals to give my toddler. No mom guilt or anything …. I have given him plain Kraft mac and cheese plenty, and I know that he won’t get a terrible disease doing that every once in a while, but I do want to try to add a bit more nutrition when I can. Plus, I love getting to help him cultivate his tastes. That probably sounds silly to say about a 3 year old, but when I get to see him taste new foods and flavors, and talk about what he likes, I think it’s really fun.
When I started this blog in April, my dear friend Erin gave me a journal to use for blog and recipe ideas. I use it everyday to come up with recipes. To anyone but me, it pretty much looks like nonsense chicken scratch. I had come up with this fresh herb mac and cheese recipe and had it written out in my book. Last weekend, our friends Ben and Whitney came over for dinner with their two kids, so I thought it would be the perfect place to try it out with friends. With four crazy kids running around while trying to get dinner together, this mac and cheese was falling by the wayside.
Whitney loves to cook, and she’s amazing, so she offered to make it. Somehow, she deciphered my scratch, made it exactly how I intended, and did a phenomenal job. It was triple great – I now know my directions can be followed by someone else, I didn’t have to make it that night, and I got to eat this delicious stuff.
You should feel free to use this as a baseline of sorts and add the veggies or meats of your choice. No matter what you add, this fresh herb mac and cheese is just plain tasty.
Fresh Herb Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces small shells
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1/2 sweet onion chopped
- 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 3 cups milk
- 8 ounces mixed cheddar cheeses
- 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 6 ounces 2 links sweet Italian chicken sausage, I use al fresco brand
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 small head of broccoli about 1.5 cups
- 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
- 2 tbsp melted butter
- 2 teaspoon fresh sage chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 or 3.5 quart baking dish.
- Cook pasta shells per package instructions until al dente. Set aside.
- Steam broccoli and chop crowns into bite size pieces. Set aside. To do this quickly, I put a few tablespoons of a water in a microwave safe bowl, place the broccoli in the water, and then cover the bowl with a microwave safe plate. I heat it on high for about 2 minutes, then drain the broccoli.
- Remove sausage from casings and crumble. Heat olive oil in small pan over medium heat. Add crumbled chicken sausage and cook until slightly browned. Remove and set aside.
- In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt 4 tbsp butter and add onion, seasoning salt, pepper, nutmeg and chili powder, stir together well.
- Sprinkle flour over ingredients and saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Whisk milk into mixture and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened, whisking frequently.
- Stir in cheese and worcestershire sauce. Once well combined, stir in pasta, chicken and broccoli.
- Place mixture in prepared baking dish.
- Melt 2 tbsp butter and mix well with panko, sage, thyme and rosemary. Spread evenly over mac and cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
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Links to Amazon items used to make this recipe: