Back to Basics Macaroni and Cheese

When my children were little, I found a recipe for macaroni and cheese on the back of the Creamettes box.  This was the recipe I made for years and years.  I recently made it again instead of the recipe I’ve made for the last 10 years (Judy’s Creamy and Delicious Macaroni and Cheese), and I discovered that I may like it more because it seems a little less rich.  It’s basically the same as my current recipe except that it has much less cheese.

  • 2 cups elbows (I like Creamettes) (about 1/2 of 1 lb. box)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 10 oz. Land o’Lakes yellow American cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk 

Melt butter in saucepan.  Add flour, salt, and pepper.  Whisk over medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Add milk gradually.  Whisk over medium heat for about 10 minutes till starts to thicken a little, but not too much.  Add in the cheese.

Cook pasta in boiling water till just cooked- not overcooked.  Drain in colander.  Butter a casserole dish.  Pour sauce into casserole.  Pour the macaroni noodles in and mix together till noodles are evenly coated with the sauce.

Cook at 375 degrees for about an hour till the cheese starts to rise to top and brown and the edges start to get brown and crusty looking.

5 Ingredient Homemade Beefaroni

I’m always trying new recipes I think my grandkids might like.  I made this simple recipe yesterday.  I was skyping with my son Benji who’s in Vietnam right now.  We were discussing all the different recipes he wants me to make when he gets home in a few weeks. I was showing him pictures of the beefaroni I was cooking and he told me that on the night he gets home from Vietnam, he wants that dish waiting for him.

  • 1 lb. good chop meat (I bought Whole Foods short rib chop meat)
  • 1 28 oz. can organic Cento chunky style crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1 medium to large onion chopped
  • about 6-7 garlic cloves chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dried oregano (about 1 teaspoon)
  • about 3/4 lb. of pasta (I used De Cecco wagon wheels)
  • parmesan for serving

Saute onion for a few minutes in about 2 tablespoons olive oil till soft.  Add garlic and saute a few minutes. Add chop meat and brown over low flame.  Add salt and pepper and oregano.  Then add tomatoes and pure.  Break up the chunks of tomatoes with the spoon or spatula you are using to mix.  Cook over medium to low flame about 15-20 min dvakotla.com.ua.  You don’t want to reduce or lose too much of liquid, cause you’ll need it.

Boil your water and cook pasta till al dente.  Drain, and add about 3/4 of the box or pound to the meat sauce.  You’re ready to serve.  If you are serving it later, just heat it up in the microwave, because baking it in oven will dry it out.

Baked Penne with Marinara, Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Miniature Meatballs

I wanted to make a baked pasta dish and add my homemade meatballs, so I came up with this very easy recipe.  I was thrilled when my daughter told me how much she loved the dish.  I decided to omit ricotta cheese from the dish, and I was glad.  I thought it came out perfect without it.

Ingredients:

1 lb. penne or ziti, whole wheat or not

1 lb. or a little more of grated mozzarella (I used Whole Foods part skim)

about 1/2 cup grated parmesan

about 1 qt. marinara sauce (I used jarred)

about 1 teaspoon fresh thyme if you happen to have it

a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes, if you like the heat

for the meatballs:

1 lb. grass fed or organic ground beef, 85% fat

about 1/3 cup ketchup

1 large egg

abut 1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs or white ones

kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder

make the meatballs:

In a mixing bowl, gently mix the ground beef, ketchup, 1 egg, about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, about 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and the bread crumbs.  I use my hands to mix gently.  Then form little meatballs- a little less than 1 inch in diameter.  Put about 2 tablespoons light olive oil or canola oil in nonstick saute pan and heat.  Gently place meatballs in pan and brown only very lightly on all sides.  Pour marinara sauce in a saucepan, and gently place drained meatballs in sauce.  Add the thyme if using as well as red pepper flakes, and simmer covered over low flame about 10 or 15 min.  Turn heat off.

for the assembly:

Cook pasta in boiling salted water till al dente.  Drain in colander. In 9 by 13 rectangular or oval baking dish, spoon a little sauce in pan to coat bottom.  Put a nice layer of noodles to cover bottom of pan.  Spoon about 1/3 of sauce and meatballs over the noodles.  Sprinkle with parmesan and about 1/3 of grated mozzarella.  Put another 1/3 of noodles on top, 1/3 of sauce and meatballs, parmesan, and 1/3 of mozzarella.  Spread last 1/3 of noodles, the rest of the sauce and meatballs, parmesan, and rest of mozzarella.

Either put in fridge to bake later, or bake right away.  From the fridge, it will take about 1 hour at 375 degrees.  If you are baking it immediately, it might only take 30 minutes for it to get nice and bubbly.

Easy Mac and Cheese

I had read a recipe in the NY Times for a Crusty Macaroni and Cheese.  I was having some company, and I decided to give it a try.  It’s very simple to make as you don’t make a white sauce or a roux.

The consensus was that it was very good, but not quite as creamy as my regular recipe.  But I liked it a lot, and I’ll definitely make it again.

Adapted from the New York Times Jan. 4, 2006

(The quantities are slightly changed from original recipe)

 

Recipe: Crusty Macaroni and Cheese

3 tablespoons butter (I used unsalted)

12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (I used an extra 3 oz. for the top)

16 ounces American cheese coarsely grated (mine was just sliced thin from the deli, and then broken into smallish pieces)

1 pound elbow pasta, boiled in salted water until just tender, drained, and rinsed under cold water
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional) (I used 1 teaspoon black pepper instead)
Salt (I used 2 light teaspoons of kosher salt)
2/3 cup whole milk

 

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Use one tablespoon butter to thickly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Combine grated cheeses and set aside three heaping cups for topping.

2. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked pasta, cheeses, pepper, and salt to taste. Place in prepared pan and evenly pour milk over surface. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top, dot with remaining butter and bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until crusty on top and bottom.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

Greek Pasta Salad

I took my homemade dressing which has a Greek vinaigrette taste, and I added some pasta, and some veggies to create a pasta salad that tastes similar to a Greek salad.

It’s a little heartier than just a salad, and it makes a great leftover lunch.

For the dressing:

  • juice from 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup)
  • ½ cup olive oil (I use a combination of light and extra virgin)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sun dried tomatoes (in oil) minced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated

In a mixing bowl, whisk the lemon juice, the oregano, the salt, the pepper, the red pepper flakes, the optional sun-dried tomatoes, the lemon zest, and the garlic. Then add the oil slowly as you continue to whisk. You can make this earlier in the day, and put it in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid. Then when you are ready to use it, give it a few good shakes, and pour it over the salad right before you serve the salad.

for the pasta salad:

12 oz. rotelle or penne

1 1/2 greenhouse cucumbers, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

about 12 kalamata pitted olives, cut in half

a few slices of red onion, diced

1-2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

1 pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half

about 1 lb. of good feta, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

Cook the pasta till al dente.  Run under cool water.  Place in large serving bowl, and add all the veggies.  Then pour vinaigrette over salad and mix.  Put in fridge until ready to serve.

Really Easy Marinara Sauce

This sauce is a breeze to make, and you can use it for your homemade pizza, as a sauce for eggplant parm, or just over pasta.

  • 2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin or light olive oil
  • lots of fresh garlic- maybe 6-8 cloves finely chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar (optional)

In saucepan over medium flame, heat oil, add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and saute till garlic is translucent.  Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and simmer covered over low flame for about 1 hour.  Re-season as needed.  

Judy’s Healthier Pasta with Meatballs and Marinara Sauce

I have been making my homemade meat sauce with meatballs  for the last 3o years, and it remains a family favorite.  But recently, my children have been requesting that I make marinara sauce with meatballs as a lighter and healthier alternative.  So my challenge was to make sure my meatballs would be just as delicious even though they wouldn’t be cooking in my meat sauce.  Well, I did it!  My inspiration to develop the recipe came from my daughter Randi, who thought her baby, Noah, would love the meatballs.  Randi and her husband Dan have been vegetarians for the last 10 years, but have started eating meat again, but they still don’t want a meat overload.  So the perfect compromise is a great marinara sauce with my incredible meatballs.  As a bonus to health, I found fabulous organic ground beef at Costco.  It comes in vacuum sealed 1 pound packages which can be easily frozen, and easily defrosted.  The meat was absolutely beautiful, and had the freshest smell when  I opened it.  What a find!  This is a delicious and economical recipe that you are sure to enjoy.

for the meatballs:

3 pounds organic chopped meat (or ground turkey)

3  extra large eggs

about 3/4 cup ketchup

about 3/4 cup plain  bread crumbs ( I once substituted about 1/4 cup of organic oats and 2 tablespoons wheat germ for some of the bread crumbs, and the meatballs were just as good as when I use all breadcrumbs.)

kosher salt, garlic powder, and ground pepper to taste

Mix with clean hands gently; do not overmix.

Form into meatballs with a diameter of about 1 1/2 inches.

In a very large nonstick frying pan, put a drop of canola or olive oil.  Heat, then put meatballs in over low-medium flame, and brown for just a few minutes over a medium heat.  Turn meatballs and then COVER pan.  You do not want to really brown them all over, because they can become tough.  It is almost as if you are steaming them.  Take cover off a few times and turn meatballs.  This should be a gentle process.  Discard fat as you cook meatballs.  When meatballs seem pretty cooked, transfer them with slotted spoon into your pot of marinara sauce being careful to drain as much fat as possible before putting meatballs in sauce.  The meatballs don’t have to be fully cooked when they go in the sauce, because they will finish cooking in the sauce.  Simmer the meatballs in the marinara sauce over a low heat for at least another hour with cover on over a very low flame.  Recipe for marinara sauce is below.

for the marinara sauce:

about 1/3 cup olive oil

4 or 5 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes (best brand is Sclafani- found at Pathmark on Route 1 in Edison and Top Tomato)

1 small can tomato paste

6-8  garlic cloves, crushed or minced

2 medium or 1 large onion, chopped very fine (I use the metal blade of the food processor and I pulse the onion until it is the consistency of chunky apple sauce)

kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste

1 tablespoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or dried herbes de provence

1 teaspoon of sugar, if you like

Pour about 1/3 cup of olive oil in a very large saucepan.  Add crushed red pepper flakes to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon.  Then saute the onion till translucent, add the chopped or crushed garlic cloves, and saute with the onion till soft.  Add all  the tomato product, about 8 – 12 oz. of water if you think the sauce is too thick, about 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer over low flame mixing every 10 or 15 minutes.

After the marinara has been cooking for about 45 minutes, add the meatballs which you have prepared and par-cooked as instructed above.  Then simmer meatballs in sauce over lowest flame for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours with cover on.

Add more seasonings as needed.  Serve over pasta of your choice.  Or you can let the sauce cool and freeze it in quart containers with the meatballs.

Greek-Style Couscous With Spinach, Garlic, Feta, And Pine Nuts

I made this recipe for my daughter Randi and her husband Dan last night as a side dish, and they loved it!  It is healthy, easy to make, and much more tasty than the average couscous recipe.  The whole wheat couscous tastes just as good as the regular, so if you can find it, I recommend using it as it is healthier. This recipe serves about 3-4 people, double this recipe for 5-8 people.

  • 1 box Near East whole wheat couscous- box says plain
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • about 3 1/2 -4 ounces of prewashed baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • about 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, grated on microplane
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Note:  If you do not like feta cheese, or you’d like the dish to be even less fattening, eliminate the feta cheese.

In large skillet, toast pine nuts till lightly browned.  Then add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 very large ( or 4 small) minced garlic cloves and put flame on medium.  Saute until garlic is translucent.  Add spinach over low flame, just until spinach is wilted.  Add salt and pepper.  Add lemon juice and zest.  Take off heat.  (You can do this part in advance if you wish.) 

A few minutes before you are ready to serve, follow directions and recipe on box for couscous- follow exactly.  When couscous is ready, add it to warmed spinach mixture in large skillet and mix.  Spoon into serving bowl, sprinkle feta cheese over, mix gently, and serve.

Easiest Baked Ziti

This is a recipe that is so easy to make and is just delicious.  Everyone loves it, kids and adults.  If you are having people over for dinner, for a party, or even a barbecue, the addition of this dish will always be appreciated!  

  • 1 pound of ziti or penne pasta
  • 1 pound of grated mozzarella cheese, part-skim or whole milk
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 14-16 oz. ricotta cheese, part-skim or whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes to taste
  • about 40 oz. of marinara sauce, either jarred or homemade marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Start boiling pasta in large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions for al dente; drain pasta.  While you are cooking the pasta, mix ricotta cheese in a bowl the egg, some salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste, and oregano (optional).  Pour about 1/2 cup of sauce on bottom of 9 x 13 oval or rectangular baking dish.  Spread about 1/3 of noodles on top.  With you clean hands, drop dollops of ricotta mixture over noodles (to use about 1/3 of ricotta).  Sprinkle about 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese over, and sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan or Romano cheese.  Then with a large spoon, drizzle marinara sauce over, to use about 1/3 of the remaining sauce.  Repeat with 1/3 of noodles, 1/3 of ricotta, 1/3 of mozzarella, a little Parmesan or Romano, 1/3 of sauce.  Repeat with last 1/3 of noodles, last 1/3 of ricotta, remaining sauce, and then top off with remaining mozzarella.

Cover loosely with foil and bake for about 40 minutes.  When starting to be bubbly around the edges, uncover dish, and place under broiler – at  least 8 inches from broiler element.  Watch carefully so as not to burn, but you are looking for the cheese to be browned nicely all over the top.  Serve immediately.   

Note: You can make this up to 2 days  in advance up  and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.  You will need to add about 1/2  to the cooking time if you are baking right out of the fridge. 

Simple Fusilli With Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce

I was over at my daughter’s house a few weeks ago.  She had some beautiful organic cherry tomatoes on the counter.  So I made a quick tomato sauce and tossed it with some fusilli and it was delicious.  She told me the next day that her husband Dan actually did something only my son Benji has done, he picked up his plate and licked it clean!

  • about 12 ounces of fusilli pasta 
  • about 1/4 cup of olive oil (I use light)
  • 2 pints of cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped (you may substitute 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn)

Boil water in large pot for pasta.  Then cook pasta till al dente, reserving a little of the pasta water.

In medium-large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add red pepper flakes, and saute a minute or so .  Add grape or cherry tomatoes, the salt, pepper, and cook over medium heat until tomatoes make a chunky style sauce, about 4-6 minutes.  Then add the minced garlic, and saute another minute or two.  Last, add the oregano, and cook another minute. 

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce.  Add a little pasta water if pasta seems a little dry.

Optional:  Add 4 – 8 oz. of diced fresh or block mozzarella cheese and toss it before you serve pasta.  I have made this both ways, but I prefer it without the cheese.