Fact: I haven’t been able to see past my balcony railing for four days now. Some sort of pre-summer squall has taken up residence in Miami, and the gloom is real. Gloom, to me, means pasta. (As does rain, snow, cold, sadness, happiness and a variety of other circumstances.)
I LOVE mac n’ cheese. Who doesn’t? But most of the time, cooking pasta tends to be a whatever-I-have-in-the-fridge kind of endeavor— something simple, like tomato, basil and pine nuts, or something slow, like Bolognese, which comes together with pretty basic ingredients, and will taste delicious even if I’m missing a few, as long as it simmers long enough. I never make mac n’ cheese because I never seem to have copious amounts of cheese laying around. Yes, I could plan better and go to the grocery store, but every time I do that, I wuss out and talk myself into something healthier. I have to make it right when the craving strikes! Usually after a glass of wine or two.
Enter Parmesan Mac n’ Cheese. It’s creamy and delicious, and eats a little lighter than its cheesier counterparts. It’s almost like alfredo meets mac n’ cheese. Ingredient-wise, I always have Parmesan on hand, and the sauce, which is essentially a béchamel, comes together with just butter, milk and flour. It’s a pantry mac n’ cheese! I’m here for it.
- ½ lb small shell pasta (or similar, like elbows)
- 3 tablespoons butter, plus more to coat the pan and brown the topping
- 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1½ cups whole milk
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup bread crumbs
- salt & cracked black pepper
- fresh parsley (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Lightly butter a 9″ loaf pan and set aside.
Cook the pasta just shy of al dente— about two minutes short of the instructed time. Be sure to use salty water! Drain, and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
Then, in a medium sauce pan (nonstick if you have!) melt three tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook about a minute until bubbly.
Slowly add the milk, continuing to whisk, until a thick, velvety sauce develops. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Parmesan and stir until melted.
Transfer the pasta to the sauce, and toss to combine. Spoon into to the prepared loaf pan, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and scatter tiny pieces of butter over the top. Cook in the oven, on a center rack for 25 minutes. Then, turn on the broiler at 500°F and continue cooking for 10 more minutes to brown the top. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Garnish with parsley and more Parm!