White bowl with buffalo chicken mac and cheese on table

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with mac and cheese. 

And when you add buffalo sauce my love affair becomes a full on obsession. This recipe is very easy and it includes making your own cheese sauce. The secret is to use cavatappi pasta instead of macaroni. The ridges in cavatappi hold the cheese sauce so much better.

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Get ready to make a dish that will knock it out of the park every time.

Mac and cheese in some form is already a staple in most homes. This recipe will prove that you can dump the blue box and powdered cheese.

I used to be a little intimidated by the thought of making mac and cheese from scratch. Why would someone want to make their own mac and cheese when boxed mac and cheese only takes 15 minutes?

What if I told you that the extra time was well worth the flavor bomb that you’ll get? Would you believe me? If you’ve got an extra 30 minutes you’ll want to make this your new go-to recipe for Mac and Cheese.

🛒 Shopping List

  • Cavatappi Pasta (not macaroni)
  • Cheese — you can use your favorite blend. I like sharp cheddar, gouda, Havarti, cream cheese, and parmesan.
  • Milk
  • Half n half
  • Butter
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dijon mustard
  • Nutmeg
  • Granulated garlic
  • Paprika
  • Buffalo Sauce — you can use a premade sauce like Sweet Baby Ray’s Buffalo Wing Sauce or make your own.
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken — boneless, skinless breasts or even a rotisserie chicken will work.

🍽 Equipment needed:

  • Stockpot to boil the pasta
  • 9×13 Baking pan
  • Frying pan to pan sear the chicken breast if you don’t use a rotisserie chicken
  • Strainer
  • Large bowl to toss pasta and cheese sauce in
  • Cutting board
  • Whisk
  • Meat thermometer
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This recipe uses the benefit of multitasking while the water is coming to a boil and pasta is cooking to get a lot accomplished. Here’s the order of steps I use.

  1. Get all of your ingredients, pans, pots, bowls, utensils out.
  2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Start the water to boil in the stockpot.
  4. Prep the chicken breasts. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and granulated garlic.
  5. Begin pan-searing the chicken. Depending on your chicken thickness, this will take about 15 minutes total.
  6. Grate the cheeses — you don’t want to use pre-grated cheese. The anti-caking agents in bagged shredded cheese cause the cheese sauce to break.
  7. While the chicken is cooking, your water will come to a boil.
  8. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than the package recommends. You want the pasta to be al dente. It finishes in the oven. It took about 8-9 minutes for my pasta to cook.
  9. While the pasta is cooking and the chicken is pan-searing, begin your cheese sauce.
  10. Make the rue with butter and flour.
  11. Check the chicken doneness. Have you flipped it? Probably time to do that.
  12. Pasta done? Probably at this point. Drain it and toss with a little olive oil so it doesn’t get sticky. Set it aside.
  13. Back to the cheese sauce. Add the milk and half and half along with the mustard, spices, and 1/2 of the cheese indicated for the sauce and whisk.
  14. Heat the buffalo sauce and add additional spices and butter.
  15. Check on your chicken again. Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness. In the thickest part of the chicken, insert the probe. You’ll want to read 165 degrees F. If the chicken is done, pull it from the stove and let it rest on a cutting board.
  16. Add the remaining cheese for the sauce and whisk.

At this point, pasta is done, chicken is cooked, cheese sauce is done and all that’s left is heating up the Buffalo sauce, chopping up the chicken, mixing the cheese sauce with the pasta, assembling in the pan, and putting it in the oven.

Specific directions are listed below in the recipe card.

🍷 Wine Pairing Suggestion:

You’ll want a white wine for this dish. This dish loves a high acid wine like a Sauvignon Blanc, unoaked Chardonnay or dry Riesling. The acid helps balance the cheese and highlights the buffalo sauce.

White bowl with buffalo chicken mac and cheese on table

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

The perfect marriage of cheesy goodness and saucey buffalo chicken!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 10 servings

Equipment

  • Stock Pot
  • Frying pan
  • Strainer
  • Meat Thermometer
  • 9x13 Baking Dish
  • Large Bowl
  • Sauce pan
  • Spatulas, knives, mixing spoons

Ingredients
  

Cheese Sauce

  • 1/3 cup Unsalted Butter
  • 1/3 cup All-purpose flour
  • 2 cups Whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups Half and Half
  • 1 ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 pinch Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp White pepper (black will do if it's all you have)
  • 2 ½ cups Grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Grated gouda cheese
  • ½ cup Grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup Grated swiss cheese

Pasta

  • 1 lb Cavatappi pasta
  • 5 qt Water
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp Salt for water

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts

  • 2 Large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt, granulated garlic, paprika To taste

Buffalo Sauce

  • ½ cup Buffalo sauce, like Sweet Baby Ray's Buffalo Wing Sauce
  • ¼ stick Unsalted butter
  • tsp Granulated garlic
  • tsp Cayenne pepper

Instructions
 

Cavatappi Pasta

  • In your stock pot add water and salt and bring to a boil.
  • Add pasta and boil until al dente.
  • Drain pasta and toss with olive oil to keep it from sticking.

Cheese Sauce

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan.
  • Add the flour to the butter and whisk for 2 minutes until there are no more lumps.
  • Cook butter and flour for 3 more minutes.
  • Add the milk and whisk for 1 minute
  • Add the half n half and whisk for another 2 minutes
  • Once the milk has been fully whisked with the flour, add 1/2 of the shredded cheeses. Whisk until completely melted then add the remaining cheese.
  • Add the dijon mustard, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to the cheese sauce and whisk together.
  • Mix cheese sauce and cooked pasta in a large bowl and set aside.

Pan-Seared Chicken

  • Trim and pat dry 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
  • Heat skillet with olive oil.
  • Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika.
  • Sear the chicken breasts on both sides until a nice golden brown crust appears.
  • Turn the burner on low and cover the chicken for another 8 minutes. Chicken is done when it reaches 165 degrees F.
  • Let chicken rest for 5 minutes then chop or shred and put in a bowl.

Buffalo Sauce

  • In a small saucepan add all ingredients and heat through. Add ½ of the sauce to the chopped chicken, coat the chicken.

Assembly and Bake

  • In your 9x13 baking pan put ½ cheese coated pasta.
  • Top pasta with buffalo sauced chicken. Spread it evenly on top of the pasta.
  • Add the remaining pasta with cheese sauce on top of the chicken layer.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on top or you can slice your block of cheese and put the slices for the top.
  • Pour remaining buffalo sauce over the top.
    pre baked mac and cheese in baking pan

Bake

  • Bake the mac and cheese In your 375 degree F preheated oven for about 30 minutes.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
    Baked mac and cheese in baking dish
Keyword Mac and Cheese, Pan Seared Chicken, Pasta

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