Archive for the 'pasta' Category

Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

slow cooker mac cheese 1 Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

We’re taking turns catching colds around here. As I write this I’m wrapped in a blanket with a stiff neck (my mom keeps telling me to wrap a wool sock around it, like my grandad did, and I just might) and a mug of warm lemonade (yes!), sneezing approximately every 3 minutes, my face fixed with that expression you get when you’re just about to sneeze. (This cold is such a cliché.) We’re anticipating a high of -19 tomorrow, not that we’ll likely leave the house anyway after getting up at 5 to watch the gold medal hockey game. My ambitious plan is to make doughnuts and bellinis – or perhaps fizzy wine smoothies – and plenty of coffee. But later in the day, when everyone is cold and sleepy and huddled on the couch to catch the last of the Olympics, a batch of mac & cheese will be in the slow cooker. Oh yes it will. I wish it was in there now.

Slow cooker mac collage 1 Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

The first time I made this was back in late December, when some friends threw a house party and asked me to bring slow cooker mac & cheese. I have not had good experience with slow cooker mac & cheese in the past, and I debated cheating and making a regular batch of mac & cheese and bringing it in a slow cooker to keep warm. But I love the idea of a gooey, extra cheesy mac & cheese done in the slow cooker – it’s something that should work well, and there should be no need to have to precook the pasta – its starch should contribute to the thickening of the sauce and all that. It should work. And its success should not rely on a can of condensed cheddar cheese soup.

Also: I need crispy bits.

slow cooker mac collage 2 Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

Mostly when I make mac & cheese I cook the noodles while simultaneously turning butter and flour into a paste to which I add milk and cook to thicken (or if you want to get fancy about it, make béchamel with a roux) and add big handfuls of grated old cheddar to melt. But this macaroni with lots of cheese went about things differently, amalgamating pasta, butter, milk and cheese into one delicious unit, rather than dousing cooked noodles with cheese sauce. A variation worked in the slow cooker – huzzah! I used up half a cheese ball from our Christmas party, which was really just grated cheese and cream cheese anyway, but if you don’t happen to have half a leftover cheese ball, cream cheese will work just fine. And there will be crispy bits aplenty.

slow cooker mac cheese 6 Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

And while it was meant for the kids at the aforementioned party, the adults devoured it and asked for the recipe, and I’ve made it twice since. Soon to be three times.

Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

1 lb (450 g) elbow macaroni, uncooked (41/2 cups)
1 – 1½ lb (454-750 g) old cheddar cheese, grated
one 8oz (250 g) pkg cream cheese, cut into chunks
4 cups (1 L) 2 % milk
salt and pepper
pinch freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker; cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours, removing the lid to give it a stir about once an hour.

Serve warm. Serves 8-10.

button print gry20 Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

February 22 2014 | one dish and pasta and slow cooker | 18 Comments »

Dinner with W

A couple weeks before Christmas, W and I made a cooking video together. We cooked Penne with Pancetta, Grape Tomatoes, Peas and Romano in my Mom’s kitchen (sadly, mine is not this nice – more on that later), and although I’m not super keen on seeing myself on TV these days (more on that later too) I agreed to share. W had a great time, his cousins showed up to watch (they’re off camera, giggling under the lights and occasionally behind the counter) and we all ate the pasta afterwards, and have made it once or twice since. W knows how now.

Barilla 1 Dinner with W

(And here’s the recipe again, in case you missed it.)

Penne with Pancetta, Grape Tomatoes, Peas and Romano

Adapted from Barilla.

1/2 box Barilla PLUS® penne or other chunky pasta
1/2 cup thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta
extra virgin olive oil, for cooking
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
salt and black pepper, to taste

In a large pot of water, cook the penne according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain and set aside.

In a large, heavy skillet, sauté the prosciutto or pancetta in a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat until crisp. Add the tomatoes and cook until the skins are slightly blistered. Add the peas (they can go in straight from the freezer, even) and cook for a few minutes. Return the pasta to the pan, season with salt and pepper and add the cooking water, tossing to combine everything and create a bit of sauce. Add the Romano, too.

Serve immediately, passing extra grated cheese at the table. Serves 4-6.

pixel Dinner with W
button print gry20 Dinner with W

February 07 2014 | pasta | 7 Comments »

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