Mac n' cheese it's a classic and at one point in everyones life it was a favorite. Melted cheese and pasta it is like a match made in heaven. Seriously this dish has comfort written all over it. Warm right out the oven the crispy top layer of the shell pasta was the gooey melted and creamy cheese hidden inside each shell, it's like the best thing ever! Growing up I was a huge fan of mac and cheese. We didn't have it that often, but I always preferred the shells over macaroni. I find that the shells actually offer better cheese sauce to pasta ratio. I have been working on this theory for a few years (just kidding, or maybe not haha!).
There really is something unique about pasta and cheese and the combination of how comforting of a meal it is. It's a great simple dish to make when the weather is rainy or cold. It will warm you right up. I like to make this as a side to a meal. Instead of having an entire bowl of pasta and creamy cheese sauce I like it best as a side to a roast or something along those lines.
When making the cheddar cheese sauce I recommend grating the cheese before hand. It will be much easier for the cheese to melt and make the sauce thick. Also a great tip when grating cheese, always grate cold cheese. If you try to grate room temperature cheese the block of cheese will break and it will be a disaster, which we don't want. So keep the cheese in the fridge until it is time to grate it. The sharp cheddar cheeses are also a more elegant touch to the recipe. It makes it a stronger dish and that is another reason why I prefer this as a side dish than a main meal. Of course go for it and enjoy it as your main dish (it's a delicious one!), but since the recipe uses 2 varieties of sharp cheddars a smaller portion is all you need.
So enjoy this comfort recipe of baked shell macaroni and sharp cheddar cheese its a good one!
Yields 4-5 servings
Time 25-30 minutes
1 box shell pasta
2 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup shredded/grated white cheddar cheese + extra for grating on top
1/2 cup shredded/grated yellow cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. One boiling add 3 tablespoons of salt to the water. Pasta water should be like the sea, salty. Once rapidly boiling add the shell pasta to the water and cook as directed on the box for al dente pasta.
2. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
3. In a sauce pan over medium heat add the butter. Once the butter is half way melted add the flour and whisk it together to make a white roux. Then pour in 1 1/2 cups of the milk. Leave half of a cup just in case the cheese sauce becomes too thick. Once the milk begins to simmer add the salt, pepper, and cheeses. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir together until a thick consistency is reached. Turn the heat off and leave to the side while the pasta finishes cooking.
4. Once the pasta is al dente pour the pasta water out and drain the shell pasta. Mix it together in a bowl with the cheddar cheese sauce and make sure each shell is coated. Then pour this into the iron skillet about 10-12 inch round skillet. Top with some more grated white cheddar cheese. Bake it in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the top layer becomes a but crunchy. Remove the skillet from the oven and serve hot.