Recently, it’s come to my attention that I led an extremely deprived childhood. I recently learned that for some families, macaroni and cheese (or shells and cheese) was a Thanksgiving dinner staple.
Oh, relax. I kid. It’s not like I starved – especially on Thanksgiving – and it’s actually a very good thing that there was no macaroni and cheese at Thanksgiving because if there had been, I’m quite certain none of the other side dishes would be eaten.
Well…maybe they would…by me…standing in front of the refrigerator four hours after declaring I was too full to ever eat again. I’m predictable like that.
When I cook Thanksgiving dinner, as I am this year at my mom’s house, part of me thinks that everyday dishes should be saved for other days, like non-holidays. Another part of me realizes that we can have stuffing, mashed potatoes and homemade cranberry sauce on any day of the year, so why bother saving it for the fourth Thursday in November?
Existentialism aside, I see no reason to fill up on stick-to-your-ribs side dishes like shells and cheese on days when your focus is elsewhere – like on can-I-have-the-piece-of-sweet-potato-casserole-with-extra-marshmallows, please?
A recipe like this should be saved for a day when you can properly enjoy – and digest it. I promise, it’s worth waiting.
If you are on Team Macaroni and Cheese on Thanksgiving, throw some winter greens in there for good measure. I like Swiss chard because it’s a little less bitter than kale but packs a little more color and flavor than spinach.
Like many macaroni and cheese recipes, this starts with a roux, only unlike other recipes, you’ll actually want to brown the butter when it begins to melt. Those little brown bits that stick to the pan? Not a sign that you’re an awful cook, but extra flavor. Go with it.
- 16 ounces (1 pound uncooked) pasta shells
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- Dash of pepper
- 2 cups low-fat or skim milk
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 4 ounces soft goat cheese (chevre)
- 1 bunch (about four cups shredded) red Swiss chard
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare pasta according to package directions. In an oven-safe pan or French oven, melt butter over medium-high heat. Cook until butter begins to brown (and enjoy the aroma in your kitchen), stirring regularly. If you notice little brown bits in your butter, continue to stir; they will add flavor to your sauce later. Add 2 tablespoons flour and mix to form a roux. Add salt and pepper.
- Add milk to your roux, stirring constantly. Let cook over high heat until sauce thickens. Add mozzarella, then goat cheese, and stir until cheese is melted and thick and the sauce is bubbly. Mix the cooked macaroni into the pot and add the chard. Stir until combined and the chard begins to wilt.
- Bake in 350 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until cheese bubbles and begins to brown on top.
- Note: If you don't have an oven-safe pot or pan, use a regular stockpot and transfer the mixture to a buttered glass baking dish after incorporating the chard.