Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cozy Comfort Food

Today marks the first day of comfort food season, a.k.a. autumn. What better time to share one my favorite comfort food recipes, mac and cheese!
Surely you’ve heard it said that a cooking recipe is just a guideline. That statement lends itself perfectly to macaroni and cheese. The goodness of this classic is as unique and creative as the cook who prepares it.

Feel free to use the recipe below exactly as is or mix it up a little and substitute all your favorite ingredients (or whatever ingredients you happen to have in the pantry) to make it uniquely and expressly your own. Go ahead, play with your food! ~~Joy Bell

Need some help getting those creative juices flowing? Here are some suggested opportunities for personalizing:

Cheese-You don’t have to use the cheeses listed in my recipe, I find it’s best to stick with the cheeses you normally buy.
Pasta-Any pasta that will grab the gooey goodness of the cheese is fair game.
Seasoning-Add your favorite spices and seasonings. If spicy is your thing, add some cayenne!
Topping-While the buttered fresh breadcrumbs are a deal breaker in my household (almost more important than the cheese), you don’t have to follow my lead, I’ve seen folks crumble potato chips on top of their macaroni and cheese and it’s really quite tasty!
Add-Ins-This is a great place to get creative with your recipe. Throw in some stewed tomatoes, ham, chicken or veggies.

Basic Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound campanelle pasta shells, cooked according to package directions
  • 3 cups milk, warmed (not boiled)
  • 8 tablespoons butter, separated
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces light havarti cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces Gouda cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1-tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. While stirring, add warm milk and cook for a couple minutes longer (until thick and smooth).
  • Remove mixture from heat and add cheeses, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add cooked pasta and stir well. Pour into a baking dish.
  • Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with fresh breadcrumbs. Once breadcrumbs are thoroughly coated with butter, sprinkle on top of macaroni and cheese and bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes (until browned and bubbly).

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