Monday, September 15, 2008

Creamy Mac n' Cheese & String Bean Salad

I originally tried to put all three parts of last night's dinner into one post, and after many battles with html, I decided it might just be better to go with shorter posts, i.e. one recipe at a time. (And now I am about to break that rule and put two in this post, but this is the last time! Maybe...)

Mac n' Cheese:

I perfected this recipe during the three years I babysat for a family in NW D.C. The little boy always wanted me to make pasta, and I got tired of whipping up meat sauce every week, so I started playing around with cheese and milk, and I ended up with this creamy, mac n' cheese. Much more impressive than cracking open a box of kraft.

1 lb. pasta (medium shells or any small-ish pasta)
2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. flour
2 cups milk (I used whole, but I make it w/skim usually)
4 oz. cream cheese (approximately, better to go full-fat here)
grated parmigiano-reggiano (you can sub romano, asiago, or any other hard cheese)
grated mozzarella
olive oil

Cook the pasta, draining it while it is still al dente. Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, add flour and mix together into a paste (roux). Let the roux turn a dark yellow (about 1 min.) then add milk. Wisk together and let cook on medium for about 5 min. or until it starts to thicken. Wisk in cream cheese, salt, pepper, a small dash of nutmeg, and a generous amount of grated cheese. I always grate into the pan so I have no idea how much, but basically until it tastes cheesey. When the sauce is nice and thick, mix it with the pasta and stir in about a handful or two of grated mozzarella. Pour mixture into baking dish.

For crumbly topping: Mix together breadcrumbs, a little grated cheese, and olive oil until it is moist (about the consistency of crumb crust if you have ever baked a pie with that). Sprinkle on top of the pasta. Place the baking dish under the broiler just until the top browns.

I use the same basic cream sauce (minus the mozzarella at the end) over pasta with vegetables, shrimp, or chicken. It also tastes great on steamed vegetables or pork tenderloin.

String bean salad:
I remember my mommom making this during the summer when I was a little girl. It is so simple, but it really dresses up plain ole' green beans.

string beans
fresh chopped parsley
olive oil

Cook the string beans, then run them under cold water or let them cool. Toss with garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, oil, and vinegar. Again, just add all the seasoning to your taste.

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