For all you cheese-loving, bacon-craving, mac n’ cheese worshiping picnic-goers out there, here’s a perfect dish that you can bring along to your next potluck! Perfect as a side, but also hearty enough to stand on its own! I chose shells for their sauce-soaking-up abilities, but you could also use any other type of pasta! (Isn’t it crazy how you SWEAR that different shapes taste differently?). Feel free to play with the cheese, too- I chose a mix of soft swiss and shredded “fancy blend,” but you could go with cheddar, cream cheese, gruyere, etc. to your little heart’s content! Originally this recipe used cubed ham instead of bacon (Chicken Cordon Bleu style), but I decided on the bacon to please the man in my life. 🙂 I had to throw a few peas on top (there had to be SOME sort of green in there!), inspired by the Cheesy Smashed Potatoes I made for Easter.
- 3 large chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces and seasoned with salt & pepper
- 1 package center-cut bacon (about 12 strips)
- 1 package pasta shells
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk, divided
- 1 14 oz can chicken broth
- salt & pepper
- 2 cups shredded cheese
- 1 package laughing cow soft swiss cheese (about 6 wedges, unwrapped and at room temperature)
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon in a medium skillet on medium-high heat until crispy. Reserve grease from bacon and set aside. Drain chicken on a paper towel.
- Saute seasoned chicken pieces in the same skillet over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally, for about 3 minutes. Add a bit of the reserved bacon grease and continue to cook until cooked through, about 4 more minutes. Set chicken aside.
- Add pasta shells to a large pot of salted, boiling water then cook until al dente (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.
- Whisk flour and 1/2 cup milk together in a small dish then add to the skillet over medium heat. Slowly add remaining milk, swiss cheese, and chicken broth, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Season with salt and pepper. Continue stirring continuously until thick, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add the rest of the cheese into the skillet and stir until smooth. Add cooked chicken, bacon, and pasta shells.
- Pour into a non-stick sprayed 9×12 casserole dish and top with any remaining cheese. Top with frozen peas. Cook, covered, in oven until golden-brown, about 15 minutes.
Happy Fourth, and Happy Picnicking!