macaroni and cheese
There are certain dishes that simply MUST make an appearance at my family’s Thanksgiving table, and macaroni and cheese is one of them.
There is something so comforting about a hearty bowl of macaroni and cheese. I think that’s why I immediately gravitated towards the original recipe of BHG’s Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese. The decadence of the dish spoke to me and reminded me of my mother’s classic that she makes every holiday. I knew I just had to try it!
I planned on making it just as the recipe called for until my oven randomly stopped working. I think all of the recent baking made my oven call in sick so I had to change plans right away. The new plan was to use my crock pot, and Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese was born. Let’s just say that things always happen for a reason, and this new change in plans was perfecto!
Not only must you add this to your Thanksgiving menu stat, but you must make it once a month just to remind you how delicious the simple things in life can be. This will save you so much time during the holidays. Just think about it: While you baste your turkey, make your stuffing, bake several pies and entertain your guests, this amazing macaroni and cheese will be tending to itself and ready in a few hours. You simple toss all of the ingredients into the slow cooker like below and let it cook away.
I only made the following changes to the original recipe:
- I replaced the elbow macaroni pasta with penne but you can definitely still use the macaroni for a more traditional dish.
- I added two large beaten eggs to the mixture to create more of a custard as it cooked away.
- I replaced the milk with 1 1/2 cups of evaporated milk and 1 1/2 cups of half and half to make the macaroni and cheese richer. It is for the holidays after all right?
- I tossed in a 1/2 cup of melted butter as well.
- I toasted the panko crumbs over my stove top in a saute pan with a tablespoon of butter until golden brown.
- I tossed all of the ingredients together in the slow cooker except for 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese and the toasted panko crumbs. Once everything was combined, I topped the pasta with the cheese and panko crumbs and let it cook on low for 2 1/2- 3 1/4 hours.
- Cook less time if you want it super creamy and cook a bit more if you want the mac and cheese a bit firmer. Just make sure your pasta is nice and soft before stopping the cooking process.
This macaroni and cheese is really incredible. You will want to make this over and over again, especially since its so easy now. You can even have your kids make it. Now that is something to truly be thankful for.
Hi there, it’s Erika Monroe-Williams from The Hopeless Housewife, so nice to “meet” you! I started my website/food blog after doing a lot of television cooking segments and wanting a place for viewers to find my recipes and it just grew from there. Shortly after I started the website I was chosen to be on the ABC show “The Taste” with Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson and let me tell you, that was a dream come true!! Here I was, cooking in the kitchen with the people I most admired in the industry! I had to pinch myself. Now I have to pinch myself that I am blogging for BHG.com’s Delish Dish! I grew up cooking out of Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks (I have some handed down from my grandmother that are SO old but still amazing), so this is truly and honor.
Let’s get started! I have really been up to my ears in comfort food this winter. Boy, oh boy, have I overdone it. Like, seriously. If it had cheese on it, I ate it. Bacon? It was gone in a second. I am ready to lighten things up but it’s still cold outside so I want my comfort food! I found this incredible-looking recipe on BHG.com for Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese that looked so delicious so I changed some things around a little and made this lightened up version. Because of the moist and flavorful butternut squash, this will still be gooey and flavorful even with low fat milk and reduced fat cheese…and, sigh…no bacon. But seriously, you won’t miss any of these things!
Here’s how you make it. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. I used already cut-up butternut squash that was packaged at Trader Joe’s to make things easy. Instead of boiling the squash in the milk like the original recipe, I steamed the chunks until they were tender, about 15 minutes.
Start cooking the pasta. I decided to use penne instead of rigatoni. Follow the directions on the box then drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, sauté the onions. In a skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the butter over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, start the cheese mixture. This is where I lightened things up. I used 1% milk, low fat cheddar and omitted the bacon. In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the milk with the flour. Set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, heat the remaining milk over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk in flour mixture and bring to a simmer. Add the butternut squash and onions and continue to cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until it melts. Add the drained pasta.
Pour the pasta mixture into an oven-proof baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs. I used 1/2 the amount of bread crumbs and no extra butter or cheese on top.
Pop in the oven for 10-12 minutes then serve immediately.
For the original recipe, click here: Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese.
Every once in awhile I am asked to a gathering with the note to bring a dish; there aren’t many things that bring on a sense of panic for me than the words “pot luck.” It is completely unreasonable, I know, but I do have a fear that my lonely dish will sit on the serving table completely untouched. Definite fear of party failure working here! This bringing-home-a-full-tray-of-food-aphobia keeps me on the hunt for a crowd pleasing casserole that is guaranteed to vanish before the party’s over. After making these Cheesy Pasta-Stuffed Shells from the BHG.com site, I think I have a permanent pot-luck winner.
The creative presentation is what really sets this macaroni and cheese recipe apart. Tiny shells are made up as macaroni and cheese, then stuffed inside jumbo shells and baked on top of a bed of sauce with a mound of gooey mozzarella cheese melted on top. It is a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy.
It’s really hard to mess with a good thing–as this recipe was 100% perfect all on its own–but I did make a few changes when I baked this up. In general, any combination of really good melty cheese is going to produce a phenomenal macaroni and cheese dish. This recipe calls for Gruyere, sharp cheddar and mozzarella. As luck would have it, the grocery store I popped into to pick up my ingredients didn’t have Gruyere. It’s a cheese smaller stores probably aren’t going to carry, and costs much more than the average block cheeses usually do. So instead, I bought a block of Swiss cheese. It was fabulous with the cheddar! Emmental cheese or Gouda cheese would also be good substitutes for Gruyere cheese in this dish.
This Cheesy Pasta-Stuffed Shells recipe is incredibly flexible, just as a good mac-and-cheese recipe should be. I made a few batches and threw in different ingredients into the pasta/cheese mixture before stuffing the shells. Chopped spinach was a welcomed add; a few more vegetables never hurt anyone, and the greens made this casserole feel like a more balanced meal. For extra flavor, chopped prosciutto is wonderful or you could try some Italian sausage, pepperoni or even some seasoned ground beef. Olives, tomatoes and mushrooms are also interesting additions. There is certainly a lot of room for culinary creativity.
Next time a “bring a dish” event comes my way, I know I’ll be ready. These pasta stuffed shells will be gone in a flash, and I’ll get to happily take home an empty pan!
I’m Laurie Buckle, and I love mac and cheese. People sometimes snicker when
I confess this, maybe because it’s my job to know what’s new in food, which
chef is up and coming, and when the cupcake trend will wane (I’m the
editorial director of food for Better Homes and Gardens; lucky me). Let them
laugh, because I also love patty melts, guacamole on anything, and the
occasional bag of M & Ms.
So when my daughter mentioned a restaurant she’d been to that served pies of
all kinds (and only pies;), and that her favorite was a mac and cheese pot pie, I perked up.
Now that was a take on mac and cheese I’d never tried!
I’d been looking for an excuse to make the Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
from the October issue, and here was a good one. All I had to do was whip up
the mac and cheese, transfer it to bowls, top it with rounds of puff pastry
and bake until golden. Oh, I also had to make the mac meatless, since my
daughter’s a vegetarian.
I started with the cheese. Because where else do you start when it comes to mac and cheese? I measured a mix of Gruyere, jack and cheddar, then got grating.
It wasn’t long before I was joined by two of my favorite kitchen companions, Georgia (left, my daughter’s dog) and Coco (my dog). Both are always hoping against hope that something will hit the floor.
I cooked the pasta (scooping out a little of the pasta water before I drained it) and simmered chunks of butternut squash in milk until tender. At this point, the recipe takes an easy turn and has you mix the remaining milk and flour together in a small bowl, and stirring that mixture into the pan with the squash and milk. Once that comes to a boil, you cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes, then add the cheese. Stirring to melt it, I realized how much simpler this is than a classic cheese sauce.
Next up, a couple of onions and a hunk of butter. Since I was making a meatless version of the dish, I used butter instead of bacon fat to saute the onions. Is there anything that smells better than onions cooking in butter?
Because they smelled so good, and because I wanted the flavor that comes from nicely browned onions, I kept at this part for about 15 minutes, covering them at first and then turning up the heat during the final few minutes.
After that, it’s fast. I added the onions and the pasta to the squash-cheese mixture, tossed to combine (adding a little of that saved pasta water to moisten) and turned the mixture into some old French onion soup bowls, topping with the last of the cheese.
Then I cheated, mixing panko breadcrumbs (which I try to always keep on hand) with melted butter, and sprinkled that over the cheese. I rolled out a couple of sheets of puff pastry (which I’d let thaw for 30 minutes or so), cut out rounds and set them atop the bowls. Once they were in the oven, I used the 20 minutes or so they cooked to quick-clean the kitchen and make my favorite fall-back salad: arugula tossed with lemon juice and hunks of avocado, and a heavy hit of good salt. Dinner, done.