Category Archives: Pasta

Cheesy Goodness

Cheesy Goodness | www.ThatCookGirl.com/CheesyGoodness | Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Cheesy Goodness | www.ThatCookGirl.com/CheesyGoodness | Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

 Years ago I had a pretty amazing boss and work “family”. Our boss’s wife was really amazing too. And a pretty darn amazing cook! When we were having a potluck lunch she would almost always bring macaroni and cheese. I wanted to make it and I decided I had to have the recipe! So during a lunch celebration at our boss’s home in which his wife again served up the cheesy goodness, several of us were swooning over the amazing flavor and I declared “I’m going to ask her for the recipe.” Everyone looked at me in shock. They had for years wanted the recipe but none of them dared to ask. Here I was, fairly new to the office, and unafraid to ask! As I always say, “If you don’t ask, it’s already a no”.

I stood up from the table, found our gracious hostess and gushed to her about how much I love her macaroni and cheese and what a wonderful cook she is. Then I asked. I simply looked at her and asked: “Would you perhaps be willing to share your recipe?” She was so happy to pull out her cookbook and share the recipe with me, and all the girls were looking at me, completely astonished at my immense bravery. Ha! Us Cooks have no fear about asking for a recipe. Really, the worst that could have happened is she could have said “I’m sorry, it’s an old family secret” (which I have heard more than once) or she could have provided me with a different recipe than what she actually uses. Either way, no harm done. And I got an awesome recipe!

I have now made this, many years later, only a handful of times. And I usually use different cheeses than what the recipe calls for. I really like adding in some smoked cheese, sometimes even a creamier cheese like brie. Once even a small handful of bleu cheese crumbles got added in. The important thing is to use cheese that you like. And to make plenty for everyone. Oh and if by some chance you happen to have leftovers, please do yourself a favor in reheating them and do so in the oven. I promise you, the flavor of reheating in the oven vs microwave is well worth the time you wait!
Today I am making this most amazing cheesy goodness for a friend’s family. Her children have declared “what’s wrong with Kraft Mac and Cheese”. Well, nothing, I suppose, unless you want actual cheese in your macaroni and cheese. I have the blue boxes sitting here too, just in case I am unable to sway their tastes on this one. But really, it’s cheese, butter, and pasta! How can they not like it? Love it, even? These children are for sure my toughest critics. Since I have known them, I have cooked many meals for them. Most a hit, some are eaten, but I’m not sure enjoyed as much, and when they don’t like something, they speak up about it. (I don’t think I’ll ever be allowed to forget the caramelized carrots fiasco… apparently “caramelized” means something entirely different to a 9-year-old girl than to a 30-something woman who has an immense love of food!)

To make this cheesy goodness for yourself and your faves, you’ll need about 2# of cheese a pound of pasta, plus some butter, flour, milk, spices…oh, and maybe a recipe… please don’t be intimidated. Read through the whole recipe before you start and then just relax and let the process work.

The reviews from my critics have come back and here’s what my toughest critics have to say:
1. I was so stoked to eat it! (14 yr old)
2. So stoked on this macaroni, it’s so dialed! (15 yr old)
3. It was very scrumptious, but very hot (like heat hot) (11 yr old)
4. I thought that it was awesome. (13 yr old)
5. It tasted good. I mean, I ate all of it… (17 yr old…who seemed a little confused that I was asking)
6. It’s ****ing amazing (17 yr old [yes, there was swearing…very excited swearing…] )

Next time I make this, hopefully some adults will be around to enjoy it. Until then, I am pleased that I was able to share this cheesy goodness with a houseful of teens and tweens. 🙂

The Great American Macaroni and Cheese
This recipe is from the Pasta & Co. Cookbook

They say not to substitute a smooth tube dried pasta but to always use rigatoni for the best results. They also make a note that it is not a fiery dish, even though it calls for Tabasco and chili powder. The spiciness of the sauce and powder enhance the cheddar flavor.

INGREDIENTS

1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
3 cups milk
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1⁄4 cup romano cheese, grated
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1⁄3 teaspoon white pepper
1 lb rigatoni pasta
3⁄4 teaspoon chili powder
3⁄4 cup milk

DIRECTIONS

Combine grated Cheddar and mozzarella and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat milk until near boiling. Turn off heat. Melt butter in a heavy pan large enough to hold the pasta after it is cooked. (It will take at least a 14-inch saute pan or a large casserole that can take direct heat.) When foam from butter recedes, remove from heat, add flour, and mix well. Return to medium-low heat, and, stirring occasionally, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook, but not brown, the flour. Gradually stir in hot milk. Raise heat to medium-high and continue stirring until mixture is smooth and thick (about 5 minutes). Add Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Whisk until smooth. Add Tabasco and white pepper and blend.
Cook rigatoni in boiling salted water about 4 minutes. (It will be underdone, but will finish cooking later.) Thoroughly drain rigatoni and fold it into the cheese mixture.
If cooking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Layer one-half the rigatoni mixture into a 9×13 pan. Top with one-half of the Cheddar and mozzarella. Repeat layers. Top with chili powder, sprinkled evenly over top.
If not baking immediately, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze. When ready to bake, drizzle the 3/4 cup milk over the dish. Bake for approximately one hour. If frozen, add at least 20 minutes to baking time. The dish should be rusty brown on top. Should it appear to be browning too fast, cover with foil for part of cooking time. Be sure to check for doneness in the very center of the dish.

 

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Crowd Pleasing Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara

I love to cook for people. Have I ever mentioned that before? I recently met some new people to cook for, and at our first meeting, I kinda bragged about being an amazing cook. I even brought some of my Homemade Bagels to share. I think they liked them (either that or they’re great at faking it.lol) So of course, when the invitation came for me to bring my kids out to their house and cook dinner, I was all-too-happy to plan a meal that would be both simple enough to cook while visiting and something my hostess would be able to easily recreate on her own, but also a crowd pleaser and a “wow” kinda meal. I do believe I picked a near-perfect meal to do the trick. I have only 1 picture to share with you, and the credit for that goes to Carri who brought out her phone to snap a picture before we dished up. I was too busy enjoying cooking in a big kitchen and visiting and dancing while doing so to think about taking pictures. (I know, shocking, right?)

Our hosts spent a good amount of time that day showing me and my kids around and introducing us to all their animals, even putting my girl child on a horse to ride around for a bit (the boy child had no interest). They shot a bow and arrow, enjoyed the company of children other than each other, and generally just had a nice, fun, relaxing day/evening. And I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with adults outside of work, something I don’t get to do enough of lately.

I am not a perfect cook, to which I have admitted many times. I do make some really great food, most of the time, but I do have my mishaps… In planning the menu, I decided I wanted to make dessert as well, which I was going to prepare at home and bring along. I decided on my old “signature” dessert of cream puffs…but they didn’t puff, and my work schedule was so hectic there was no way I would have time to re-make them. Seeing my sadness (I was near tears…probably more because of my hectic schedule and trying to do too much and overwhelming myself than having not had success with the puffs, though…) at not having success with this, my girl child (15 years old now, by the way! How did THAT happen?!) offered to give them a try while I was at work. When I saw her facebook status update declaring “I WIN”, I knew she had had success and it was for sure a proud mommy moment.

So, what did we share with this family of new friends? Having bragged about being an amazing cook, it had to be something amazing, of course… Well, the cream puffs, of course, thanks to the girl child. I also made Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara (the recipe is below, but to be honest, I didn’t really follow it too closely, and had only made it once before this night, so threw it together from memory, but it seemed to turn out quite well… also, this recipe is a combination of several I found on the www with my own little twists added to it) and a big green salad with lemon salad dressing. Yeah, that’s it. But it was plenty!

Thanks again for letting me come out to your house and mess up your kitchen!

 

Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara

This is a dish that can be complete in less than 20 minutes if you gather all your ingredients before you start. It’s simple, with simple ingredients, and a crowd-pleaser!

When I told my kids one night that we were having Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner, they both cried out “YUM!!!!” But they had no idea what it was. They just liked the sound of the name. When I told them it had bacon in it, I thought they would both faint from excitement. I love these simple meals that impress. 🙂


Ingredients:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3/4 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 lemon
    Here’s What to do:

    1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Smash about 8 cloves of garlic (or more) and add them to the water (I do this instead of salt) along with the pasta. Cook to al dente, according to package directions.

    2. Meanwhile, heat the largest skillet you have over medium to medium-high heat. Add bacon to pan and cook, stirring often, until crisp. Chop the remaining garlic cloves, and slice the green onion (green and white parts), reserving a bit for garnish. Add these to the bacon and grease in the pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Chop tomato into cubes and cut lemon in half during this cooking time.

    3. In a bowl, beat yolks and add 1/2 cup of the water from the pasta. This keeps the eggs from scrambling when added to the pasta.

    4. Drain pasta and add it directly to the skillet with the bacon mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Working quickly, toss to coat the pasta, adding more water to make a creamy texture, maybe a ladel or 2 full. Remove from heat and add a large handful of cheese, about 1/2 cup or so, and chopped tomatoes. Continue to toss the pasta until it thickens. Garnish with reserved green onion and extra grated Parmesan.

    5. Serve in pasta bowls or on plates with large sides to hold the yummy goodness in!

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Filed under Entertainment, Main Dishes, Pasta, Pork, Recipes

Garlicky Buttery Shrimp Pasta

  

Simple Garlic Shrimp Pasta

Tonight was the closing shift at my new job. But that wasn’t going to stop me from cooking up the shrimp that was waiting for me in the fridge!

Of course, you know me, and I was telling my co-workers how excited I was to get home and cook my dinner. Marc (with a c), who I have not worked with before tonight, seemed really excited about my dinner. I think he was a little jealous. He said he was trying to memorize what I told him about how I was going to cook the shrimp and what I would serve it with. Well, he seems like a nice guy, and he served 5 years in the Marines (Semper Fi!), so I decided to do a picture tutorial on this very simple dinner. It will be the perfect thing for him to make for a date to impress her. (All you other guys reading this need to pay attention, too! It’s easy! You can do it!)

A note about cooking the shrimp. There is only one person who has ever intimidated me in the kitchen with his knowledge. And I really learned a lot from him the few times we cooked together. One thing I learned from him is that cooking the shrimp with the shells still on gives them more flavor. The shells are where the flavor is. (Duh! I can hardly believe I hadn’t known it before. But I’m glad I got to cook with David a few times and add to my food knowledge. 🙂 ) So, it’s up to you, but I would recommend leaving the shells on for more flavor. For a date, perhaps you want to remove the shells before serving so she doesn’t have to fumble with trying to be polite and proper when she really just wants to rip the shell off with her fingers and not care how messy she gets. Just sayin’. 😉 And now, on to the recipe (such as it is…you know I rarely follow a recipe!), complete with pictures.

First thing's first, gather up your ingredients. For tonight's dinner, I grabbed just a small amount of angel hair pasta, the shrimp (I had 6 large ones), 3 tablespoons butter, 2 cloves garlic, 1 small tomato, 1 green onion, Parmesan cheese (Please note the time-- 9:55pm)

Right after snapping this picture, I added water to the pot and turned the burner on high to get it boiling for the pasta. At the same time, I put the pan with butter on a medium-high heat to melt while I peeled and sliced the garlic cloves.

Add the sliced garlic to the butter and cook until just before the garlic turns brown. (This will take about a minute or so)

Remove the garlic from the butter, leaving the butter in the pan. The garlic will continue to cook a little more and will end up lightly browned after it is removed from the pan. You can eat this, use it to top the pasta, or throw it away. Totally up to you.

By this point, your pasta water should be boiling. Angel hair pasta takes only 4 minutes to cook to al dente, which really helps to pull this meal together in no time at all. Get the pasta into the water and set your timer for 4 minutes. Don’t forget to stir the pasta so it doesn’t stick together.

Add the shrimp to the butter in the pan and let those little guys bubble away getting all that garlicky, buttery goodness cooked right into them! Is your mouth watering yet? Each side will cook for 1-2 minutes.

While the pasta is boiling and the shrimp are sizzling in the butter, you have time to run your knife through the tomato and green onion. Just cube the tomato into bite-size chunks and slice the green onion. (I use just the dark green parts for this recipe, and reserve the white and light green parts for another use.)

Once the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and put it into a pasta bowl or onto a plate with a rim that will hold the juices in. Then remove the shrimp from the butter (leave the butter in the pan, you’re not done with it just yet!) and place on top of the pasta.

Add the tomatoes and green onion to the butter in the pan. Toss gently, just enough to warm the tomatoes a bit (this should only take about 30 seconds), and then pour the entire contents of the pan, butter and all, right over the top of the pasta and shrimp.

”]Welcome to my little piece of heaven, straight out of my own kitchen. Enjoy!

 

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Filed under Cooking With Love, Pasta, Recipes, Seafood

Evolution of a Recipe

As a young Cook starting out in the kitchen, I was given a recipe from Mom that has stayed with me ever since. We made it together once, and she wrote it down for me. The original recipe she wrote out was not exactly what we cooked together. I think this must have been the beginning of the end of following recipes “to the letter” for me.

Over the years this recipe has served me well as a quick, “throw it together at the last minute” meal, and it is also a “company worthy” meal, especially if paired with a nice salad. What started in my kitchen as simply “Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli”, has evolved into something that I still call “Chicken & Broccoli”, and yet, it is a rare occassion that broccoli is the only vegetable in the pan/on the plate.

Tonight’s version included nearly 2 heads of garlic (much more than the 6 small cloves called for in the original recipe), carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, chicken, and angel hair pasta. Amounts? You got me! I have no idea, except that all of it together more than filled my very large Stir Fry Skillet and will provide leftovers for dinners and lunches this week.

 RECIPE EVOLUTION:

 ~Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli~

½ lb. spaghetti

¼ c. safflower oil

6 sm. cloves garlic, minced

2 bunches broccoli, cut into small pieces (3 cups)

3 whole chicken breasts, boned, skinned, halved and cut into strips (1 ½ lb.)

¾ c. chopped fresh parsley

Black pepper

 Boil spaghetti until AL DENTE; drain. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add broccoli and sauté for 2 minutes, then transfer to a heated dish. Add chicken to skillet and sauté until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Toss pasta with broccoli and chicken. Garnish with parsley, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

 Serves 6

 cal. 421                        chol. 57mg

carbo. 37g                   sod. 79mg

prot. 28g                      pot. 802mg

t fat 18g                      fiber 2g

sat fat 3g                     calc 159mg

                                    iron 3.5mg

Mom’s notes:

When I made this, I sautéed the garlic along with the broccoli and sprinkled with lemon-pepper. If you use a salt-free lemon pepper, the sodium count from above stays the same. One with salt adds to the sodium content of the dish. I also sprinkled some lemon-pepper on the chicken as it cooked and skipped adding the pepper at the end of the recipe. Most times, my broccoli took longer than the 2 minutes to cook properly, too.

/end Mom’s recipe

For years I have posted online with a group of women. We are bonded together by our love of cooking, but our relationships have grown to be so much more than that. This is where the above recipe was in it’s evolution stage when I was still pretty new to online groups, and this is how I shared my recipe at that time.

Chicken And Broccoli With Pasta Recipe

broccoli flowerettes (approx 1 pound)
boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed (approx 1 pound)
4 cloves garlic, pressed (I probably use more than that, b/c we like garlic)
angel hair pasta

In a large skillett cook broccoli until crisp-tender, chicken until done. cook each with as much garlic as you like (we use A LOT!!) cook pasta, toss all together. I sometimes add a little parsley, and lemon pepper. it’s fast and easy, total of about 15-20 minutes. I put soy sauce and parmesan cheese on the table, and everyone picks their own topping.

Serve with Garlic Toast (or Garlic Cheese Bread) and salad.

Fully grown now, and this is the first time I’ve looked at this recipe in, well, I don’t know how long. I wasn’t even sure I’d still have the original copy from Mom. And tonight, I made my much-loved “Chicken & Broccoli”. It was really just my way of using up the vegetables in the fridge that were in need of cooking and taking up my valuable fridge space. Yes, tonight, it was as my recipe above states, except that I used nearly 2 heads of garlic, and added to the pan a head of cauliflower and several carrots. I have been known to include mushrooms and/or zucchini, and any other stray vegetables that may be laying around, just wanting to be added to a sizzling pan of oil and garlic and tossed with pasta.

I have discovered that freshly grated/shredded parmesan is better than the powdery stuff from a can. (Although, I do prefer the powdery stuff from a can when making my garlic toast. A little garlicky butter spread on french bread, and sprinkled with that and then broiled until brown… it’s like a slice of heaven that reminds me of spaghetti dinners from my childhood!) I have served this up to many people, and everyone tops it differently. For a friend who likes spicy food, he would add chili paste to his portion. My kids eat it just as it is, no toppings. I like fresh parmesan *and* soy sauce sprinkled on mine.

My Notes:

If you start the water for pasta at the same time you start the cutting and slicing and dicing, you should be eating dinner by the time the pasta is finished cooking, if you’re using angel hair pasta, that is. I definitely prefer this with angel hair pasta!

I cook this now with extra virgin olive oil, and the pasta gets coated with a generous amount of same to keep it from sticking together in one big clump.

As I said, this is an easy way to use up whatever veggies are on hand. I’ve put just about any veggie you can think of into the pan, and always love how it turns out. I mean, really… it’s cooked in garlic! Everything tastes great cooked in a little (or a lot of) garlic, am I right? 😉

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Filed under Chicken, Cooking With Love, Main Dishes, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetables