I'm always looking for new incarnations for buffalo chicken. We've done buffalo lasagna, buffalo dip, buffalo potato skins. I've also made Rachael Ray's Buffalo Chicken Chili. As it turns out, this recipe is just like her chili, but taken to another level. Instead of just serving up the buffalo chili in bowls with chips and other garnishes, you toss the whole pot with a pound of pasta, and then top the whole thing with cheese and slip it into the oven to cook a bit longer. Voila; chili mac!
This recipe makes a mountain of food! Seriously, I think it made enough for us to have it for dinner maybe four times, along with side dishes, before we ran out. It would be great to make for company (as long as they like buffalo), served with bread and salad. If I had to change anything about this, it would be to increase the heat level. I felt like I couldn't really taste the buffalo sauce as much as I would have liked to; it got lost somewhere amid all the tomato sauce and cheese. It still had a kick, though. The kids had a hard time eating it because of the spiciness. Andy and I loved it, though!
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
5 large cloves garlic, finely minced or chopped
1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 bay leaves
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or broth
1/4-1/2 cups buffalo wing sauce (use your own personal discretion here)
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 lb. short-cut pasta, any shape (I used these cute tennis racket shapes)
3/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Place a large pot of water on high heat, bring to a boil. Add pasta, cook according to package directions, and drain. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Meanwhile, place a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan, then the chicken, browning on all sides (about 8-10 minutes). Add the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, paprika, chili powder, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to the chicken. Cook veggies, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add chicken stock and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the hot sauce and crushed tomatoes and bring up to a boil. Simmer the chili for at least 10 minutes, until slightly thickened.
3. Add the pasta to the chili and toss to combine. Transfer to a casserole dish and sprinkle the pepper jack and blue cheeses evenly over the top. Cover with foil, then bake for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees.
4. Remove the casserole dish from the oven, remove foil, and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbly. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over the top. Let stand a few minutes before serving.