Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cooking From A Box... It's Cheesy (but not necessarily bad)

If you come over and tell me that you baked me a cake, I assume you mean it's from scratch. It's not Duncan Hines, just add eggs and oil box mix. It's flour, sugar, eggs, pure vanilla extract. The whole shebang. And when you say you baked cookies, I assume it's a couple sticks of butter, sugar, eggs...  not break and bake cookies, or those David's Cookie dough batches that you stick in the freezer (though my neighbor is selling them so I bought some -- God knows what I'll do with that batter). I mean, scratch is scratch, and homemade is homemade.

You will imagine, then, why it's so hard for me to say that anything from a box is good. 

I received my order from Fun Pasta, a fundraising organization that donates all profits from sales to whatever fundraiser you support. I started an online fundraising campaign to raise money for the Save Sergio & Co. fund, and did some shopping at the site to get the ball rolling. I got different types of pasta, but also bought a kit. It's a mac and cheese kit. 

This is what you get when you cook from a box (a cool coloring sheet for the kiddos)!

Now, my favorite version of creamy mac and cheese starts with a roux and has nutmeg in it. My favorite baked version, taught to me by my Southern grandmother, has chunks of cheese and rough cut tomatoes in it, topped with a sprinkle of paprika. The kids, well, they like Annie's macaroni and cheese, or, dare I say, Kraft.

Since this was a fundraiser for Sergio & Co., I decided to hike up my order's total by ordering that kit. And when it came tonight, I asked my son if he'd like to try it for dinner, as a taste test. The additions to the powdered cheese (did I just write that? OMG) are very rich. A 1/2 c of butter (1 stick) and a 1/2 c of whole milk. I couldn't bring myself to adding all that fat (to something already processed), so I only added 1/4 c of butter, and a 1/4 c of whole milk.

The directions, and the calorie count. 

When all was said and done, we sat down for dinner, and I asked Johnny to do the taste test. It definitely looked creamy. One bite, a smile, and then two thumbs up. He really liked the pasta. The shapes are harder to make out than I imagined, but still, it was good pasta. And while he is too old to color the drawing that is included, younger kids might really enjoy it. 

If your kids like boxed mac 'n cheese, they will love this pasta.

Our choice was the Down on the Farm version of Easy, Cheesy Pasta.
If you prefer to make your mac and cheese from scratch, here's my version of the very rich and cheesy roux style.

the Domestic Goddess Gets Cheesy, Mac Daddy

  • salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • 1 quart milk
  • 8 T salted butter (divided)
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 4 c gruyere cheese, grated
  • 2 c extra-sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 c panko bread crumbs

  1. Cook pasta in salted, boiling water with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into the water. Drain well. Set aside.
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt 6 T butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes or more, until thickened and smooth.
  3. Off the heat, add cheeses, 1 T salt, pepper & nutmeg. Add cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into 3 quart baking dish.
  4. Melt remaining 2 T butter, add breadcrumbs and sprinkle on top. 
  5. Bake 30 - 35 minutes or until golden brown.

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