Recipe 32: Parmesan Shells and Cheese

So remember I said the newest mac would be made on Sunday?  Well Loverman and I were invited to dinner with his parents, so that clearly didn’t happen.  Then Monday we took a post-work nap and, shocked how late we had snoozed, we just slapped some stuff together to eat.  And yesterday we cooked something we had taken out to defrost a few days before.  So it didn’t happen.  Please forgive me, Weekly Mackers.  It’s been a long time since Loverman and I have been on the same schedule with work, and we are both kind of dropping the ball with dinner preparation.  Guess it’s a good thing my schedule will be completely shifting next week – which will mean fewer nights free for recipe-experimentation.

On the flipside, I have found a bunch of delicious-sounding macs recently.  It’s hard to know where to start!  Even more exciting, with 32 out of 52 recipes complete, that’s over 61% of the challenge complete and only 20 more macs to go!  Woohoo!

This mac is great because it is one of the many that uses ingredients that you either likely have in your pantry or can obtain quite easily.  Remember – when a recipe calls for Parmesan cheese (at least as its primary cheese), do not use shaky-cheese out of a green tube!  Use the real stuff!

Parmesan Shells and Cheese (from about.com)

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour (or gluten-free alternative)
  • 1 cup chicken broth (vegetable broth would probably be fine too, but because the original calls for chicken broth, I didn’t mark this as vegetarian; mine was homemade)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces small shell macaroni, uncooked (I used corn; I actually am not sure the shape matters)
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • paprika, optional (I left this out because I forgot about it; good thing it was optional)

Directions

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour, cooking until hot and bubbly, about 1 minute. Gradually stir in chicken broth and milk. Add the salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and continue to cook and stir until cheese is melted.  Note: It will start out super soupy and you will be worried you read the ingredients wrong.  Relax. and trust in The Force.  It will thicken out in time if you let it simmer and stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook the shells in boiling salted water as directed on package. Drain well and add to the sauce mixture, blending well. Transfer to a lightly buttered 2-quart baking dish. Combine bread crumbs with melted butter and parsley flakes; sprinkle over the casserole.

Bake at 325° for 25 to 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with paprika before serving, if desired.  Serves 4 to 6.

OK, so it isn’t pretty.

Verdict: 2.5/5

I think the somewhat low number for this mac is actually pretty misleading, as is the tag “due for a do-over.”  The taste was not the issue, but rather the proportions: The bread crumbs to pasta ratio was all off; both Loverman and I agreed that there were way too many breadcrumbs.  The taste was slightly nutty and earthy, something which I feel would be complimented by mushrooms.  Loverman chimed in his usual suggestion of chicken breast, and for once I agree.  He added that if the chicken was a little peppery it would be ideal, and I think he’s right on with that idea as well.  I think this would suit several different protein additions.

 

On an unrelated note, since we are on the downward slope for this challenge, I’ve toyed with the idea of making a non-mac blog.  Still, does the Internet really need yet another self-indulgent blog out there?  Probably not.  Still, I’ve considered it.  We’ll see how things go, I suppose.

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