Mac ‘n Cheese with Crispy Panko Topping
and spinach tomato salad
Crispy panko topping gives this classic mac and cheese some added texture.
Smarts: Use your favorite cheese (or a combination of a few!) to make this mac and cheese your own.
- Pasta, elbow macaroni - 8 oz (sub any pasta shape)
- Cheese, cheddar - 6 oz, grated (use any type of cheddar cheese or your other favorite cheese; don't buy pre-shredded cheese as it can make the finished dish grainy)
- Panko breadcrumbs - 1/2 cup
- Garlic powder - 1/4 tsp
- Black pepper - 1/4 tsp
- Oil, olive - 2 tsp
- Butter - 3 Tbsp
- Flour, all-purpose - 2 Tbsp
- Salt - 1/2 tsp
- Red pepper flakes (opt) - 1/4 tsp
- Milk - 1 1/2 cups
- Vinegar, red or white wine - 1 Tbsp
- Mustard, Dijon - 2 tsp
- Honey - 2 tsp
- Oil, olive - 2 Tbsp
- Tomatoes, cherry or grape - 1 cup, halved
- Carrots - 4 oz, shredded (look for pre-shredded)
- Baby spinach - 8 oz
- Pasta - Boil pasta according to package directions. Be careful not to overcook the pasta (you want it to have a slight bite to it) since it will continue to cook a bit once combined with sauce. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
- Cheese - Grate cheese. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
- Make vinaigrette - Whisk together vinegar, mustard, and honey. Add oil (portion for salad) while whisking. Season with some salt and pepper. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
- Prep panko topping - Combine panko, garlic powder, and black pepper. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
- Tomatoes / Carrots (if not pre-shredded) - Prep as directed.
- Turn on the oven’s broiler and place a rack about 6” / 15 cm below the heat source.
- Stir olive oil (portion for mac and cheese) into panko topping and set it aside.
- Heat a large oven-safe saute pan (use one that can hold all of the pasta) with butter over medium heat.
- When butter is completely melted and starting to bubble add flour, salt, and red pepper flakes (if using). Whisk until no dry spots of flour remain.
- Slowly pour milk into the pan while whisking. Continue whisking vigorously until milk is fully incorporated and the sauce is smooth. Heat sauce until it begins to simmer (increase heat if needed to speed this process along). Simmer milk, stirring frequently until sauce thickens, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat. Add grated cheese a bit at a time, whisking the sauce well between each addition.
- Stir pasta into sauce. Top pasta with panko mixture. Transfer to oven and broil just until panko is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. (Be careful when you remove the pan - the handle will be hot!)
- Toss baby spinach, tomatoes, and carrots with vinaigrette until dressed to your liking.
- Enjoy mac and cheese with salad on the side.
Incredibly tasty, even cold as leftovers. I really loved the simplicity of baking these. I’ve tried many tenders recipes over the years, these are the most flavorful with the least amount if work/mess!1 Helpful
This was good - but we have a version we make in the IP that we like a little better. That recipe uses dry mustard and a little lemon juice - maybe that's the difference?0 Helpful
It was ok. We weren't blown away by how good this was, but we didn't hate it, either.0 Helpful
Quick and easy0 Helpful
Surprisingly tasty for such a simple meal! The chicken tenders and dressing tasted really fun, like something you wouldn’t expect to come with a light healthy salad. Definitely keeping this in the repertoire for an easy, healthy meal in the future!0 Helpful
The chicken was a great hit! I liked the homemade dressing recipe as well. I'll be keeping that for other uses too!0 Helpful
Always a little dubious when cubed cheddar appears in a salad, but can’t deny it was delicious!0 Helpful