Happy New Year! I've been on the hunt lately for new, scrumptious, family-friendly meals, that can be made ahead of time, or in less then 30 minutes. I've recently started working (after 9 years of being a stay-at-home mom!), so my time in the kitchen has been dramatically reduced.
There are so many different flavors of 'fully cooked' or smoked chicken sausage available now in grocery stores, and using this type of sausage can be a huge time-saver. I happen to like certain brands more then others, and only buy sausage that is 100% natural and doesn't contain msg.
This "glorified" mac 'n cheese recipe is super yummy, can be made ahead (cover and refrigerate overnight before baking), and is very easy to throw together. My family and I loved this and I will be making it again and again. Even the leftovers were awesome. You have to try this!
Garlic Mac 'n Cheese with Smoked Chicken Sausage
(recipe generously adapted from Amanda's Cookin')
Serves 8 (recipe can easily be halved for smaller families)
1 box whole wheat rotini pasta
18 oz fresh or frozen small sugar snap peas (about 2 1/2 cups), cooked
6 T unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
6 T all-purpose flour
2-3 fresh garlic cloves, finely minced
3 cups low fat milk (I use 1%)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use reduced fat 2%)
1 3/4 cups shredded Italian cheese blend, divided (I use reduced fat 2%)
2 - 9 oz packages of fully cooked smoked Italian chicken sausage, sliced into moons
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.
Cook pasta according to package directions for 'al-dente'; drain.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, stir and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic powder, and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered over medium heat for about 1 minute, stirring frequently, or until mixture is slightly thickened. Stir in the cheddar cheese and 1 cup of the Italian cheese blend, until smooth.
Add the pasta back to the pot used to cook it in. Then add the cooked sugar snap peas and the sliced chicken sausage. Add the cheese sauce and mix well. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle remaining Italian cheese blend over the top of the pasta.
Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until hot, bubbling and cheese is golden brown on top. Enjoy!