Shells and Cheese.

In college, I ate the crap out of shells and cheese. It was neither cheap nor healthy, but I still ate it like crazy. There was something about the tangy cheese and the gooey noodles that called my name. Thankfully, I kicked the packaged dinner habit as soon as I had a regular kitchen (I graduated to chili mac after that) (ho’made, of course) but I still salivate slightly at the sight of packages of shells and cheese. There are dozens of mac ‘n’ cheese recipes out there that I fully endorse; Martha Stewart has an excellent one that includes aged white cheddar and gruyere (life goal: correctly pronounce “gruyere”), and even recipes that use Velveeta aren’t too terrible. This recipe, however, satisfies the tanginess that I’ve been looking for in a mac ‘n’ cheese, and it’s fast, cheap, and easy. The Pioneer Woman supplied the heavy basis for what I’m about to share with you, so credit her for it entirely. I’m just gonna tell you what I did. I hope this helps you kick your packaged dinner cravings like it helped me with mine!

 

1 lb mini pasta shells

1/4 c butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 c flour

1 1/2 c whole milk

1 egg

1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

3 tsp ground mustard powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

 

Boil shells one minute shy of al dente in a large pot of salted water (you want them to be fairly firm). Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside. Using the same pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle flour on top and whisk constantly for 3 minutes, being careful not to burn. Whisk in milk and mustard powder and cook, stirring almost constantly, until thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. In a small bowl, crack and beat the egg. Ladle about 1/4 c of the milk mixture into the egg – slowly! – and whisk in gradually. When egg and milk mixture are fully incorporated in the small bowl, pour egg mixture into milk mixture and stir. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper until smooth and creamy. Taste; adjust seasoning if necessary. Gently fold in noodles until coated. Remove from heat and dump into a large casserole dish. Serve immediately.

 

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