Shells & Cheese
A favorite comfort food in our house is Shells & Cheese from a yellow box with a foil pouch of a cheese-like sauce. It's alright. That's J-lo's preferred box. Mine is the old school blue box of Mac & Cheese.
Well tonight it was shells and cheese. From scratch. Mmm.
You don't have to use shells, but they take the sauce really well.
(beware, estimate quantities-I didn't measure)
3/4 lb pasta, cooked al dente
3-4 TB butter
3-4 TB flour
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of onion powder & garlic powder
fresh black pepper and salt
Melt butter of medium heat. Add the flour. Stir until all the butter is absorbed. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring for 3-5 minutes. This will cook out the flour taste. You know have a flavorful roux.
1 cup water or light broth
1 1/2 cup half & half
Add the water and stir. The mixture will bubble, blurt and maybe even spit a little. When smooth add the half & half. Stir to incorporate.
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup blended "Italian" shredded cheese (includes mozzarella, parm, provolone and others)
Add the cheese to the sauce in handfuls. Stir to incorporate. Add another handful. Continue until all the cheese in mixed in.
Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning as you see fit.
Pour sauce over the cooked pasta and stir until blended. Dump pasta into a baking dish.
Add some seasoned breadcrumbs to the top.
2 TB butter
1 tsp each of dried parsley, thyme and oregano
A few grinds of pepper and pinch of salt
1/2-3/4 cup dried, prepared bread crumbs
Melt butter in pan. Add the seasoning, pepper and salt. Stir in breadcrumbs and toast for 3-5 minutes until fragrant and nutty.
Once the crumbs are added to the top of the shells & cheese, toss the whole mess into the oven for 15 minutes at 350.