Sunday, January 23, 2011

Easy Peasy Mac-n-Cheesy!

Giving a shout-out to this recipe, though I didn't follow it, I did learn some tricks! 

You'd think that, growing up in the South, I'd have learned how to make real mac-n-cheese at quite a young age, but I didn't.  I do, however, LOVE mac-n-cheese, and even the boxed stuff is okay on occasion.  This, is not that occasion!

This particular recipe is super easy and super tasty, so you really have no excuse to grab the box!

What you'll need   

Sharp Cheddar (shredded, 9 ounce bag)
Mild Cheddar & Monterey jack (about 9 ounces, I just used what I had left)
Spiral/elbow pasta (or mini shells, or penne, if you prefer)
Raw Baby Spinach (9 ounce bag)
1 pint half-and-half
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cook the pasta to al dente  While it's cooking, prep the spinach.  Now here's the trick.  You really only want the spinach blanched or wilted, you don't want it cooked all the way through.  So while the pasta is cooking, I set the spinach up in another pot.

Once the pasta is finished, I drain the boiling pasta water into the pan with the spinach.  Set the pasta aside and drain the spinach.  It will look like too much before it's cooked, and like not enough after it is cooked.  Don't worry, it'll be perfect, just set it aside :)

Now your pasta and your spinach are good to go.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Put 1 &  1/2 cup half-and-half in a sauce pan and set it to the low side of medium, you want to bring it up to a simmer.

While that's doing it's thing, put 3 tablespoons of flour into a bowl and add the nutmeg and the sweet paprika.  You could use regular paprika, or even smoky paprika, but for this dish I really prefer the sweet paprika.  Mix the dry ingredients, and then add the remaining 1/2 cup half-and-half.  Whisk it until it is well mixed.  If there are a few lumps, it’s okay, but they should be small lumps.  Once the milk in the pan has reached a simmer, add in a dash of olive oil, then add in the flour mixture and whisk until it begins to thicken (about 2 to 3 minutes).

Take the flour & milk mixture off the heat and begin to add in most of the cheese, slowly, mixing gently until it is melted. I sprinkle a handful at a time over the milk-flour mixture and stir in until melted. Reserve a portion of the cheese to sprinkle on top.

Spray your baking dish, or put a little olive oil in it.

Add the pasta and spinach to the dish and mix it up a little. 

Pour your cheesy mix on top, and then using a large spoon, poke into the pasta so that some of the sauce settles in.

I top with chopped bacon and more cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes at 400.


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