Buffalo Chicken and Bleu Cheese Macaroni

For the first time ever, I tried chicken wings this year--who has never had chicken wings, right??--and they were AMAZING. In fact, for the week or so after I tried them, I was craving that yummy, spicy flavor. But, since I couldn't just drink the hot sauce out of the bottle (not that the thought didn't cross my mind), I had to come up with a recipe that had a similar flavor. I thought about a macaroni and cheese that utilized the same elements as the chicken wings (i.e. the spice, the bleu cheese dipping sauce, the...you know...chicken) and found a recipe here that was everything that I could ever dream of (though I'm sure my arteries had nightmares for days). It was cheesy and creamy and spicy, and the bleu cheese made it taste about as sophisticated as a bar-inspired take on a traditionally childhood meal can taste.

This macaroni recipe is one of those things that just makes you feel cozy and happy, so take a moment to drool over the picture, and then whip yourself up a batch!!

You will need the following ingredients:

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 pound yellow sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a LARGE 9 x 13 pan. I used a cake pan instead of a typical casserole dish, and I was still worried I wouldn't have enough room for all the macaroni. Or, you could also fill two smaller 8x8 pans if you prefer. Either way, you'll be eating macaroni for a week (lucky!).

Cook your pasta according to package directions (just make sure to salt the water before adding the macaroni, as this will flavor your pasta). Next, melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add your onion and celery and cook for 5-8 minutes (until you notice your onion turning translucent), then add your chicken, garlic, and 1/2 cup of hot sauce. Simmer until slightly thickened.

Now for the cheese sauce! Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a separate skillet over medium heat and mix in the flour and mustard, stirring to prevent lumps. Add in your half and half (still stirring to prevent lumps), bring to a boil to help it thicken, then reduce the heat and let it simmer gently while you add in your copious amounts of delicious cheese (only the cheddar and pepper jack here--hold on to bleu for just a bit longer!). Now, if you'd like, you can add an additional 1/4 cup of hot sauce into the cheese sauce if you like things REALLY spicy. I left out the 1/4 cup, and the 1/2 cup from the chicken mixture still made things perfectly spicy for the hubby and me.

Pour the macaroni, cheese sauce, and chicken mixture into your greased pan and mix well (or layer the ingredients as the original recipe called for, if you prefer). Finally, melt the last 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave and mix in the breadcrumbs, parsley, and bleu cheese. Spread over the top of your macaroni and cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden on top and bubbly around the edges. Like so:

Allow it to rest for 10 minutes after it has come out of the oven, then dig in! If you love chicken wings and all things cheesy and spicy, you will love this. So thank you to the Food Network for inventing this god among foods, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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