Hey there Annnnnnnne,
I’m so glad you had a hankering for mac and cheese because this dish was fun, easy and quick to make. Plus, cheese happens to make everything taste better and hide some imperfections.
As i looked for whatever cheeses were left in the fridge and what other open packages of veggies and what not, I gathered them up and remembered that the pasta choice is just as important, if not more so because it needs to hold and absorb all the ingredients.
I really wanted to use mezzi rigatoni (it literally means half) for this dish because the small but chunky and thick walls would hold the cheeses and any additional fixins’ I choose to put in. Sadly, mezzi rig was not in the cupboard. I settled for ditalini. It was ditalini or penne and everybody uses penne. Besides, ditalini still had a wide opening to hold cheesy goodness.
The recipe I use for the white sauce is a basic one I grew up with from the Northern Italian Cooking cookbook I featured in an earlier post. I did add the nutmeg to it because that is a popular addition. The rest is my concoction after perusing a bunch of recipes about making mac and cheese with leftovers. This is what I came up with, Anne.
Total time is about 70 minutes. Forty-five minutes in the oven and the other 25 minutes for cooking the pasta, making the white sauce and combining the ingredients.
splash of nutmeg (optional)
2 tbsp. flour
The macaroni & the cheese:
2c. leftover cheese shredded
salt, black and red pepper for taste
1c parmesan cheese grated
sprinkle of breadcrumbs
Additions (Use your imagination):
handful of sun dried tomatoes & spinach
ham, chicken, etc.
I boiled the pasta until very al dente. Since this will be baked, the pasta doesn’t need to be cooked all the way. I drained and set aside.
Next came the white sauce. Heat the milk until it just boils. As the milk is warming, get butter melted in a dutch oven so you can easily transfer from stove to oven. Once the butter begins to bubble whisk in flour and nutmeg until combined. Then whisk in milk when it is ready. Once combined add the grated cheese, salt, red and black peppers. Mix until the cheese in incorporated and then add you additions like sun dried tomato, spinach, ham, chicken, etc. I gave that a quick stir and then plopped in the pasta. As I mixed the pasta so it became coated I added the parmesan cheese in, but I set aside a little so it can be sprinkled in top along with the breadcrumbs.
When the pasta looks like it is well mixed in with the cheese and any extras, sprinkle the rest of the parmesan and the breadcrumbs and put in the oven to bake.
Twenty minutes no cover in 350 degree oven at bake. Thirty-five minutes with lid on.
It was hard not to try this right out of the gate. It looked and smelled so good! I decided to take the puppy for a walk as it cooled, so I wouldn’t be tempted. I did still burn a small spot on the roof of my mouth.
Ciao for now.
P.s. Anne, I have never had mac and cheese (the good stuff that is homemade) with the traditional half-moon pasta shapes. Elbow macaroni are used in soups in our house.