My children love mac and cheese. For the longest time, pasta was just about the pasta and the cheese. Nothing else in there. It's only been fairly recently that they will accept foreign material in their pasta with cheese. And by foreign material I mean chicken, bacon and red peppers.
This also has what I call grown up cheese. Lots of freshly grated parmesan topped with melty provolone cheese. You could use Jack cheese but I just think that provolone has so much more flavor.
This makes a lot of food. Two whole 9 x 13 pans. When I cook, I like to cook a lot. Feel free to halve the recipe but otherwise you can pop the second pan into the freezer for another night. The leftovers from the refrigerator are awesome as well. So go ahead, make both pans.
Parmesan Cheese Penne with Bacon
1 1/2 lb. cooked shredded chicken
1 lb. bacon, crumbled
2 boxes (32 oz) penne pasta, cooked al dente
1 1/2 red bell peppers, diced
1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
12 slices of provolone cheese, for the top
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. garlic
1/2 cup of chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine or marsala wine
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
5 cups heavy cream
Cook chicken. I cooked mine in the microwave in a covered dish for about 10 minutes until done, sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper. Then I used the broth from the chicken in the pasta dish.
Chop and Shred:
Chop red peppers.
Grate parmesan cheese.
Cook bacon. I cut the bacon into chunks first and then cooked the bacon.
Cook the pasta and drain.
Saute garlic in butter. Add chicken broth and wine, mustard, salt, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and heavy cream. Cook to a soft boil but stir constantly and don't over boil. It will thicken slightly but not completely. This is okay because a lot of it will soak in to your al dente noodles.
Combine everything with the paprika together. You'll need a pretty large bowl for this. Pour into 2 - 9 x 13 in pans that are sprayed with cooking spray.
Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Remove foil, top with slices of parmesan cheese. Continue baking for another 15 - 20 minutes.
If you're only cooking one pan, cover the other pan tightly with foil and freeze. Thaw before baking.