Overnight Creamy Chicken Mac and Cheese Casserole
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Overnight Creamy Chicken Mac and Cheese Casserole is a creamy, macaroni and cheese casserole loaded with Kraft Natural Cheese! It’s made completely in advance and requires no boiling the macaroni. This casserole is sure to become a family favorite!
How was your Thanksgiving? I’m happy to say that mine was a big success — I even had time to sit down and enjoy the day here and there! 🙂 The best part for me, however, is that the leftovers are all gone and we’re back to eating regular food again. I haven’t even begun thinking about Christmas cookies because I’m not in the mood for sweets yet, which is puh-retty strange for me.
I will tell you what I’m always in the mood for — cheese. Cheese is one of my favorite foods because not only is it delicious — it’s the ultimate comfort food. I especially love incorporating it into dishes during fall and winter because that’s when we really need our comfort food. This Overnight Creamy Chicken Mac and Cheese is the perfect meal to serve your family or at gatherings because it’s guaranteed to make everyone feel warm and cozy inside.
I began making a casserole like this right after I got married because I found the recipe in a little paperback cookbook that I picked up at the supermarket one day. I wasn’t the best cook then, and I loved how easy the recipe was. That particular recipe called for condensed soup, which I really don’t use anymore, so I thought it would be great to make my own version of that casserole with a homemade bechamel sauce. And this version is even better!
Of course, this casserole would be nothing without the cheese. 🙂
I use Kraft Natural Cheese often, and there are so many delicious varieties to choose from. The Mexican variety shown above is one of my favorites, because it’s two of my favorite cheeses in one. I happened to find a large selection of Kraft Natural Cheese at my local Walmart store, and knew it was just what I needed for this casserole!
The best part about this casserole is that you can make the entire thing in advance, and that it’s easily customizable with whatever veggies or protein you’ve got on hand. I used some leftover chicken breast, and sauteed some fresh mushrooms and frozen peas. From there, I got started on my homemade bechamel sauce.
A homemade bechamel sauce is very easy to make, and requires only about 15 minutes of time. Who needs condensed soup? 😉
You start by melting your butter in the pan, then sprinkle in the flour and whisk it in. Whisk over medium heat until it turns golden brown and smells like shortbread, about 1 minute. This is the roux, which is the thickener for our sauce.
From there, remove the saucepan from heat. Add 1/3 of the milk slowly while whisking constantly, until the mixture resembles a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining milk and place over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the sauce comes to a boil, about 10 minutes. The sauce will have reduced about 1/3 and will coat a wooden spoon.
Pour the sauce into a large bowl and allow to cool completely.
Add the elbow macaroni and stir until the pasta is completely coated with the sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight. The next day — voila! You have the ultimate creamy pasta with no boiling required. 🙂
Add your chicken, veggies, and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, and stir. Place into a greased 9×13″ baking dish and spread evenly. Top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs, pop it in the oven, and you get one cheesy, comforting dish that nobody will be able to resist.
Am I right, or am I right?
I made this dish 3 different times within a 3 week period while testing this recipe, and it was always met with happy faces. The fact that it got better each time certainly didn’t hurt either! Obviously the third time was the charm — this gloriously cheesy, comforting casserole before you just couldn’t get any better in my opinion. It’s soul-warming comfort food, it’s perfect for weeknight dinners because you can do everything in advance, and most importantly, it’s a hit with everyone.
Winner, winner….creamy, cheesy chicken casserole for dinner. 🙂
Be sure to check out more delicious cheese recipes at Kraft.com! I’d love to hear about your favorite cheesy recipe.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups milk (I used skim)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups dry elbow macaroni
- 1½ cups cooked, cubed chicken breast (about 1 large breast)*
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces mushrooms, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- ½ cup fresh or frozen peas (thawed if frozen)
- 2 cups Kraft Natural grated cheese, divided (I used Mexican)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, sprinkle in the flour and whisk until combined. Continue to whisk until the roux is golden brown and smells like shortbread, about 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and whisk in ⅓ of the milk slowly until a smooth paste forms. Whisk in the remaining milk, and place back over medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, about 10 minutes. The sauce will have reduced by about ⅓ and will coat a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and pour into a large bowl and allow to cool completely.
- Once the sauce has cooled, add the elbow macaroni and stir until completely coated with the sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator overnight until the pasta has softened completely.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms until browned and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thawed peas and saute 1 minute more. Remove from heat and store in an air tight container in the fridge until the next day.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray.
- Add the chicken, mushrooms, peas, and 1½ cups of the cheese to the pasta mixture and stir to combine. Pour into the prepared casserole dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of cheese on top.
- In a small bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs with the melted butter until coated, and sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Let stand for about 10 minutes, serve, and enjoy!
The mushrooms and peas may be substituted with your favorite veggies.
Recipe by Flavor the Moments.