Not Your Momma’s Macaroni & Cheese

I can not tell you how popular “Adult” Mac & Cheese is around our house. This makes an easy side-dish and is also a super-satisfying vegetarian entree. The recipe requires no sauce, saving a messy step, and can be made earlier in the day and baked just before serving. Sharp cheddar is good to use in this casserole, and mixing-in a little mozzarella is nice – but mixing in Jalapeno Jack makes it really spicy! Sometimes, I add green or red bell peppers too. Making this for kids? Use elbow macaroni, leave out the onions, jalapenos and garlic… or which ever ingredients your kids don’t like. The technique is the same – add cold cheese to cold noodles and bake. So many times I have made this when kids were coming over for dinner – not sure they would like the entree I was preparing for their parents – and the adults always want the mac & cheese!

One pound penne (or similar) pasta
2 Tablespoons olive oil
One large onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, sliced into rings (I do not seed)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups shredded cheese (16 oz.)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan
1/4 cup coarse Italian-style breadcrumbs, optional

Heat oven to 375°. Oil a large, flat, casserole dish.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and cool under running cold water, and return the cooled pasta to cooking pot. Set aside.

While pasta is cooking, sauté the onion, garlic and jalapeno in a two tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.

Stir the onion mixture into the pasta and add the cheese. Toss well to blend. Season with salt and pepper, if desired (I never do – it’s salty & spicy enough). Pour mixture evenly into the prepared oiled casserole dish and top with parmesan cheese and/or breadcrumbs.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes (use the longer time if you want a really crisp crust) until the top is brown and bubbly. Serves 8.

RV TIPS: Make this at home to bring in the RV – use a disposable/recyclable aluminum pan and cover it with foil. I often make this recipe and put it in two 8×8 pans. We eat one and other is “half-baked” for 20 minutes and allowed to cool. Then I freeze it and vacuum-seal the casserole and it is ready for the RV freezer. Thaw and bake in the oven – nothing could be easier. The half-baking technique works for most cheesy entrees – think lasagna! The cheese melts a bit, which allows it to be frozen without becoming spongy.