I prefer to cook what my dinner guest craves, so I indulged Dre’s request for baked ziti. I was low on spaghetti sauce and had some veggies that needed to be eaten. I blanched broccoli florets, sauteed mushrooms, onions, & garlic, opened a large can of crushed tomatoes, and warmed them together with seasonings in a saucepan.
While the sauce simmered, I decided on large rigatoni and boiled them until al dente in salted water. I like fat noodles when making baked pasta dishes as they tend to fill with your sauce when tossed. The jumbo macaronis for my Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese worked great! I folded ricotta cheese & shredded mozzarella into the warm sauce, tossed it with the cooked rigatoni, and dumped it into a greased casserole. Once the sliced mozzarella I tiled on top began to brown & bubble, I pulled it from the over and served Dre a big, hot scoop of Baked Toni.
- Crushed Tomatoes – (1) large can
- Broccoli – (0.5) head, trimmed into small florets & blanched
- Mushrooms – (1) cup, sliced
- Garlic – (1) T, minced
- Onion – (1) medium, sliced thin
- Dried Basil – (1) T
- Red Pepper Flakes – (1) tsp
- S&P – to taste
- Ricotta – (1.5) cups, part skim
- Shredded Mozzarella – (1) cup, low moisture – part skim
- Fresh Mozzarella – (6) oz, sliced (or enough to cover most of the dish)
- Grated Parmesan – to taste
- Rigatoni – (1) lb, cooked al dente & tossed w/ olive oil
- Olive Oil – as needed
- Heat about (2) T of Olive Oil in a saute pan. Add garlic & onion and cook until caramelized, about (5) min.
- Add mushrooms & saute until browned on both sides, about (3) min per side.
- Dump entire contents of the canned crushed tomatoes into a sauce pan. Add cooked mushrooms mixture, blanched broccoli, dried basil, red pepper flakes, and S&P. Stir and bring to a simmer.
- While sauce simmers, bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, about (10-12) min.
- Drain rigatoni and return to stock pot. Add a bit of olive oil & toss to prevent sticking.
- Remove sauce from the heat and dump into a large mixing bowl.
- Fold in ricotta & shredded mozzarella cheeses unti combine.
- Add rigatoni and toss to coat completely.
- Pour the rigatoni & sauce mixture into a greased casserole dish.
- Tile sliced fresh mozzarella on top.
- Bake at 350 degrees for (25) min or until the cheese is browned & the casserole is bubbling.
- Let cool for about (3) min and serve with grated parmesan cheese.
Dre’s main request for Friday’s dinner was Mac & Cheese WITH BACON to accompany my Roasted Tomato, Mushroom, & Smoked Mozz Stuffed Chicken Breasts. On a shopping trip last week, I picked up the most adorable red casserole dish and this was the perfect opportunity to christen it. I needed to refresh myself on Mac & Cheese basics and Alton Brown seemed like my go-to man. I forgot how easily you can turn a basic rue, some milk, onion, & cheese (and bacon, of course) into the most comforting of foods. Mmmm, Mac & Cheese!
Shredded Mozz, Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, & Velveeta
I put Dre in charge of finishing up the Mac & Cheese. He crumbled bacon and tossed it into the macaroni & melty cheese mixture. The jumbo macaroni were perfectly filled up with the bacon & gooey cheesiness. He gets half the credit on this cooking venture for that move!
Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese
No Baked Mac & Cheese is complete without a crunchy crust and why not have it add to the cheesiness! Dre crushed up some Cheez-Its, tossed with melted butter, and sprinkled on top. It added a crunchy texture to the creamiest, yummiest Mac & Cheese I’ve ever tasted, if I do say so myself! And how cute is that casserole dish?!
Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese w/ a Cheez-It crust
Smokey Bacon Mac & Cheese
adapted from Alton Brown’s Macaroni & Cheese Recipe
- Macaroni – (1) lb, cooked al dente
- Farfalle, Orchiette, Spirals & Shells all work well, too
- Butter – (3) T + (2) T
- Flour – (3) T
- Milk – (3) cups
- Whole Grain Mustard – (1) T
- Paprika – (2) tsp
- Bay Leaf – (1)
- White Onion – (1/2) med onion, chopped
- Shredded Cheeses – (4) cups or more
- I used (2) cups Mild Cheddar, (2) cups Mozzarella, & (1) cup of Smoked Gouda
- Velveeta – (8) oz, cubed
- Smoked Bacon – (4-5) slices, cooked & chopped (optional, I guess…)
- Cheez-Its – (1.5) cups, crushed
- Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Melt (3) T of butter in a heavy pot on Med and add flour. Stir for about 5 min until it turns a light caramel brown, watching closely.
- Add Milk, Mustard, Paprika, Bay Leaf, Onion, & S&P and stir. Bring to a simmer on Med for about 5 min. Remove Bay Leaf.
- Immediately add the cheese mixture to the pasta in a large bowl or your stock pot and coat. The bacon crumbles can go in now, too.
- Pour mixture into a large, greased baking dish or casserole.
- Crush (1.5) cups of Cheez-Its in a sealed plastic baggie and then toss with (2) T melted Butter in a bowl. Sprinkle over Mac & Cheese.
- Bake for about 30-40 min until bubbling. Remove and let it sit for (5) min before eating.