I credit my Buffalo chicken wing enlightenment to Boyfriend. Without him, I would not understand the wonder, excitement, and deliciousness of those spicy little drummies. Nowadays, I neither crave nor eat much chicken, but the smell of Buffalo sauce still manages to trigger my slobber glands into overdrive. It's such an addicting flavor!
Considering how much we also love macaroni and cheese, it was only a matter of time that the meals would collide into one dish. Additional exciting news (for me): With the chicken being optional, it falls into the wonderful category of semi-meatless meals! Others can still get there fill of chicken, while I get to enjoy an equally delicious meatless variation.
Yes, you might be tempted to try to make this healthier by using skim milk--as I normally am--but I urge you not too. The level of creaminess just isn't the same with a fatless milk, and I always end up disappointed. Use 1% milk; it won't kill you...at least not any quicker than the pound of cheese also in the recipe.
No homemade macaroni and cheese is complete without a crumb topping, but not all of them are luck enough to get a carrot-ranch topping. It's crunchy, cheesy, tangy...oh-so-typical to a plate full of wings. And getting Boyfriend to eat a bit of vegetables? I'm pretty proud of that too!
A closing tip: Leave out the noodles, add a bit more Buffalo sauce, and you have yourself a SUPER cheesy dip. Served with homemade pretzel bites, tortilla chips, carrots, celery, or broccoli, it'd be a perfect appetizer for an impending game day ;)
Happy meatless eating!
Buffalo [Chicken Optional] Macaroni & Cheese
with Carrot-Ranch Topping
A Pursuit of Sweetness Original Recipe
8 ounces macaroni noodles, uncooked
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups 1% milk, warmed
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup Buffalo sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoon Ranch dressing powder mix
1/3 cup carrots, shredded
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 chicken breast, poached in salted water and shredded
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare one or two baking pans (depending on number of variations you are doing) by spraying with non-stick spray. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta until just al dente (it'll finish cooking in the oven). You can return noodles to pot just prior to completing the cheese sauce.
- In a medium sauce pan, melt butter on medium heat. Sprinkle in flour; and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Gradually add in warmed milk, about 1 cup at a time, and continue to stir. Allow sauce to thicken (this part requires a bit of patience).
- Reserving about 1/2 cup of the cheeses for topping, add in remaining cheeses and Buffalo sauce to sauce pan. Stir until melted and incorporated. Remove from heat.
- If you are making both a meat & meatless version, separate out 1/2 of the noodles and sauce in a medium bowl to combine. If not, you may simply pour cheese sauce over noodles in pot and stir to combine (add optional chicken/carrots at this time too).
- In a small mixing bowl, melt 1 tablespoon butter for topping. Mix in ranch mix, carrots, crumbs, and reserved 1/2 cup cheeses.
- Pour noodles & cheese mixture into prepared baking pan(s) and top with carrot-ranch mixture. Bake about 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and topping is crispy. Allow dish to rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving.