I realized I have been holding out on you guys. My apologies. I have a recipe for a super easy, weekday or –end baked pasta dish that is super easy to kitchen sink to meet your needs/wants. You can make it early in the day, or right before the meal. You can dress it up, dress it down, add veg, add meat, top it with crunchies or not. And the kids will eat it.
No-boil Mac and Cheese
(my version of the original found in BonAppetit)
Serves 8 or so
1 lb. elbow macaroni
3 cups shredded cheese, divided (we use what we have, but like cheddar, gouda, edam, manchego or whatever you have on hand; the more varieties the better. We’ve even added feta and ricotta blobs which are a nice addition).
Before you get started, know that you can chopped veggies (usually nuke them briefly if they are raw, just to get the cooking started), chopped meat (e.g. ham, chicken, turkey, or even sliced pepperoni), capers or olives or, literally, anything you find in your fridge that you think might go. You can also add ingredients to half of the pan, and then just take care not to mix everything together in Step 3. Please note: if you are adding a lot of additional ingredients, I recommend putting the 9 x 13 pan on a baking sheet to catch any spills that might happen. Speaking from personal experience, cleaning up the charred goo from the bottom of the oven is NOT an enjoyable task!
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
2.Toss pasta and 2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.
3. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
If you want to top it with crunchies, while the pasta is baking for the first bit, melt ¼ butter in a skillet, and add 1 clove of garlic, chopped, 1 cup of panko and toast until fragrant. Add 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley. Sprinkle this topping over the pasta after the additional cheese when you remove the foil from the dish (at step 3).