Thursday, September 29, 2011

Penne and Cheese (because it's not macaroni)

I posted twice in one day!  Strange, yes, but since I had to pass along a recipe, and had changes to it, I thought I would go ahead and just write it out all together.  This is based on Kurt Dammlier's "World's Best" Macaroni and Cheese.

Hey, guys!  So, last night I made a wonderful mac and cheese - it really might rival my favorites.  And since only one of the three kinds of cheese is a new-addition to my shopping list, it was very economical as well. 

I didn't take pictures at the time, but do have a pic of the original recipe that I modified, so you can get a quick glimpse of the brilliance that is this show-stopping food.

picture courtesy of Martha

Good, huh?  YUP!  It'll be slightly different-looking than that, but you get the idea.

First: Make the Cheese Sauce.
Cheese sauce is like making gravy (as in biscuits and...), which makes me think I am going to fail at it.  Mostly because I have a track record of really good gravy, but only 1/2 cup of it, or a rational amount of sausage-flavored milk to go with the biscuits.  I'm working on this... we all have hangups in this world.  And I must say, even I could not mess this up.  Just pay attention and believe it's science.

melt 4 tbs butter in a heavy-bottomed pan.  I used a 12" pan and although 11" might work, any smaller than that and it would be cheesemageddon.  All over your kitchen.  when the butter is melted, add 1/3 cup flour and wisk it around to create tasty little morsels - and keep generally wisking while this cooks - for 2 minutes.  Trust me.  The full two minutes.

Then slowly add milk. I happen to drink 1%, so that's what I used... and, trust me, I was plenty happy.  So no need to run out and buy whole milk for this one.  Keep wisking for the most part and let it cook/wisk/thicken for another 10 minutes.  The whole ten.  You'd be amazed what happens between 9:30 and 10:00 - it ceases to become slightly-thick milk and turns into something more.  Now take it off the heat and put in 3 cups grated cheddar cheese (I love Sargento for cheese dishes, and since it's going to be highlighted, pay the extra ten cents and enjoy), as well as 1 cup cheddar jack (although I used "Mexican Blend" which also has two other cheeses, and i was happy happy happy).  Also add 1/2 tsp garlic salt and 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder OR smoked paprika powder.

Now, assuming you want to go forward with this whole "pasta" thing and not just serve that sauce over veggies, eggs or your finger, let's move to the pasta:
In the mean-time, cook a box of penne pasta for about 2 minutes less than the manufacture's instructions (for me, that meant 9 minutes).  Drain and rinse to stop cooking process.

Put mostly-cooked pasta in a large bowl and add cheese sauce.  Stir to coat.

Add your delicious goo to a greased 9x13 pan that has been sprayed (or buttered if you're feeling decadent).  Now top with a light sprinkle of the chili powder or smoked paprika all over everything, 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cup grated gruyere.  mmmm... the melty goodness of gruyere.  And now, just to add a little bit of crunch to the dish (I find it changes up the texture nicely), mix 3/4 of a cup of bread crumbs (ideally I'd use panko for the great texture, but today I just had italian style from progresso) with about 1 1/2 tbs melted butter, and spread over the top.

Pop in the oven for 20 minutes.  Let stand for 5 minutes, and serve to a grateful world.

Penne and Cheese

Cheese Sauce
4tbs butter
1/3 c flour
3 c milk
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated cheddar jack (or mexican blend) cheese
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder or smoked paprika

Melt butter, and add flour.  Wisk together and cook for 2 minutes (wisking occasionally) over medium heat.
Slowly add 3 cups of milk (keep wisking) and cook for 10 minutes.  Sauce should thicken, but not boil.
Take off heat and add the rest of the ingredients.

Penne and Cheese
1 lb penne pasta
1/2 c grated cheddar cheese
1/2 c grated gruyere cheese
1 tsp chipotle chili powder or smoked paprika
3/4 cup bread crumbs (wouldn't panko be nice?)
1 1/2 tsp butter

Cook pasta for 2 minutes less than "al dente."  Drain and rinse.
Combine cooked pasta and cheese sauce in a large bowl.
Transfer to 9x13 sprayed baking dish
Melt butter and add bread crumbs.  Stir to combine.
Top with remainder of ingredients and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Wait 5 minutes and serve.

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