Weekend Cooking: White Mac and Cheese

There’s no comfort food I love more than mac and cheese, but I hate how long it takes to come together. Cook the pasta, grate five different kind of cheese, make the cheese sauce, bake it, bread crumb it—sometimes I just want a simple dish I can make quickly! This mac and cheese is perfect for that. It’s made on the stovetop, and you can throw it together in the time it takes to cook the pasta. (According to the website I found it on, Smells Like Home, it’s a knockoff of Panera’s Mac and Cheese, which I’ve never had.)

White Mac and Cheese
barely adapted from Smells Like Home

8 oz pasta (any small pasta works well, but I usually use cavatappi)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup half and half or milk
2 slices White American cheese, torn into small pieces
8 oz extra sharp white cheddar, grated
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp red hot sauce

Cook the pasta according to package directions. When finished, drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a pan big enough to hold the pasta, over medium heat. Once the butter has started to foam, add the flour and whisk constantly for one minute. Then slowly add the milk, whisking until it’s smooth. Turn the heat down to medium low and continue whisking occasionally until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes.

Turn the heat to lowest setting and start adding in the cheese by the handful. This is really where you’re going to eyeball it. Allow the cheese to melt, and then add more until it reaches your desired thickness and cheesiness level. I usually use about 3/4 of the cheddar and all of the American cheese. About halfway through this process, turn the stove off and remove the pan from heat.

Add the mustard, salt, and hot sauce. Then stir in the pasta, coating it with the sauce. If your pasta has been sitting for awhile, you may want to turn the heat back on and allow the cheese sauce to melt for 1-2 minutes. Otherwise, dish out and serve!

Note: This makes an excellent base for chili mac.

 

Weekend Cooking: Pasta with Mustard, Sausage, and Goat Cheese

Goat cheese is one of my favorite things ever. Pasta is also one of my favorite things ever. So, anytime I can, I try to combine the two. I love simple pasta recipes, and the recipe I have below really intrigued me when I saw it on the blog Emily Bites. But I thought it was missing something…and so I added a sprinkle of goat cheese on top. And my friends, it was beautiful.

Pasta with Mustard, Sausage, and Goat Cheese
adapted from Emily Bites

Ingredients:
8 oz. pasta
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 lb spicy Italian turkey sausage (or 3 links)
1/4–1/2 cup white wine (I eyeball it somewhere in between)
4–5 oz baby spinach
1/4–1/2 cup half and half (same—I eyeball it)
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
Crushed red pepper
4-5 Basil leaves, chopped
Goat cheese
Preparation:
1. Cook the pasta according to directions; drain and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage; stir occasionally and break into smaller pieces until it is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the wine to the pan and deglaze, scraping to release any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the spinach by the handful until you feel like there is enough in the pan. Cook until the spinach wilts and the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the half and half, mustard, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Sitr and simmer for another 2 minutes.
5. Remove the pan from heat. Add the pasta and stir until well coated with sauce. Dish into individual bowls and garnish with basil and goat cheese.
Serves 2

Weekend Cooking: Italian White Bean and Pasta Stew

Cold, cold, cold. The temperatures outside are ridiculously low, which means I want stews and pastas. Lucky for me, I found a perfect recipe a couple of weeks ago. The Italian name for this stew is Pasta e Fagioli. This is my first time making it, but according to The Kitchn (from which I adapted the recipe), this strays from the traditional definition of that stew—it doesn’t include tomatoes, for one—so I just decided to call it White Bean and Pasta Stew. It’s hearty and filling, great for the frigid temperatures we’ve been having, but it’s not too heavy. The thick cut bacon gives it this amazing smoky taste, but the fact that you don’t use a lot of bacon means that the flavor isn’t overwhelming.

Pasta e Fagioli

Italian White Bean and Pasta Stew
adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

4 pieces thick cut bacon
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup white wine2 15-oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
6 oz pasta
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6–8 oz baby spinach (to taste)
Chicken stock/water
Salt and pepper

Preparation

In a large heavy pot over medium heat, fry the bacon. Once all the fat has rendered, move aside to a paper towel lined plate. Dice, or break into small pieces once it has cooled.

Pour off all the fat except for one tablespoon. Add the diced onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook for about 20 minutes on medium-low heat, until the onions start to caramelize. Add the diced celery; turn the heat up to medium and cook for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for another 30 seconds, until you can smell the garlic.

Transfer about half the onion mixture to the plate with the bacon and deglaze the pot with the white wine. Make sure you scrape up all those browned bits on the bottom of the pot.

Add the beans to the pot, then add the bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and enough chicken stock/water such that the beans are covered by about 1 inch. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the bacon and onion mixture back to the pot, along with the thyme. Once the pot comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Keep an eye on the soup while the pasta is cooking, as you may need to add more water/chicken broth.

When the pasta is finished, turn the heat off and add a handful of spinach. Stir until it’s wilted, then add another handful. Continue until all the spinach has been added. Remove the bay leaf, and add salt and pepper, if needed.

Weekend Cooking: Pumpkin Turkey Chili (Slow Cooker)

I’ve discussed my love of the slow cooker. It’s the most-used countertop appliance in my kitchen, no doubt about that. I also love chilis. No matter how many recipes I have in my back pocket, I’m constantly looking for new ones. That’s why I was so intrigued by this Pumpkin Turkey Chili recipe I found. Yes, I know that pumpkin season is “over,” but if you’re like me, that doesn’t matter so much (especially because this uses canned pumpkin). The pumpkin provided a nice twist to the regular chili flavors, and the fact that it’s a slow cooker recipe? I’ll be making this more than once this winter. I also loved that the onions and peppers were nicely balanced with the turkey; it made for a lighter, less meat-heavy dish.

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

adapted from Table for Two

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground turkey (the 93% lean is good here—juicy enough, but still healthy)
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed (you can use any beans you want, really. The original recipe calls for kidney, but I prefer black beans)
1 (15-oz) can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chili power (heaping, if you like the spice)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper

Preparation

Brown the turkey over the stove just until you can break it up into pieces. Don’t cook it all the way through. Transfer to the slow cooker, leaving as much of the fat in the pan as you can.

Add all the other ingredients to your slow cooker. Stir everything together until the pumpkin is thoroughly mixed. Set your slow cooker for 3–4 hours (high) or 5–6 hours (low).

Serve with your typical chili toppings. I served it with cheddar and sour cream on top and pearl couscous on the side.

Weekend Cooking: Orzo with Peas and Cream Sauce

Orzo with Peas and Cream Sauce

One-pot meals. Meals that take less than 30 minutes to prepare. These two are the holy grails of busy person cooking. Put them together, and it’s like heaven. Pasta is one of my favorite things; it’s really how I learned to cook because it’s so versatile and easy. This one pot meal is a favorite […]

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Weekend Cooking: Gumbo over Pearl Couscous

Gumbo with Pearl Couscous

We were in New Orleans in October, and ever since then, I’ve been craving hearty, spicy food. And, since it’s cold and dreary outside, this is the best time of year to make it. What is it about cold weather that makes us want rib-sticking food? It’s ALL I want right now, so I’m constantly […]

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Weekend Cooking: Black Bean Salad / Rice with Onions and Cheese

Black Bean Salad

Anything even slightly Mexican/Tex Mex/Southwest flavored is a huge hit in my house. We love it! This isn’t a one-pot meal (well it is technically, but it also uses a bowl because it has two components), but it’s one of the tastiest dishes that I make. And even better? It’s ridiculously easy. You can throw […]

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Weekend Cooking: Skillet Baked Ziti with Sausage

One thing you all probably don’t know about me is that I actually really enjoy cooking. I used to hate it, until I realized (a) I was actually good at it. I often feel like nothing comes naturally to me (except reading fast, of course), so when I realized that I had a knack for […]

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