A blog about life, food and photography.

Shells ‘n Cheese, all growed up.

Shells ‘n Cheese, all growed up.

After I made this I was like OMG OMG OMG THIS IS SO FRIGGIN GOOD!!!!!

But I couldn’t muster up the courage to post it for the past few weeks. When something comes along this delicious I want to hide it in a safe and never speak of it again. It’s one of those things, like when a stranger asks you how much you spent on your purse or shoes, or how much money you make at your job, and you get all defensive, like, it’s none of your damn business, and you wonder, wow, the nerve of some people, how can they ask something like that, because some information shouldn’t be divulged for public knowledge.

This recipe was adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese on foodnetwork.com, but with a few modifications and added ingredients to make your life a little more complicated. You’re welcome! Like, I’ve added spinach and bacon. I’ve been using bacon A LOT, can you tell?

It also has a fantastic panko bread crumb crust baked on top. The panko gives it a golden, crispy crunchiness that regular bread crumbs can’t compete with. And spinach + bacon is always a great combo.

And yes, I know I the word ‘growed’ in the title is not a real word, it was just used for effect.

Shells ‘n Cheese with Spinach and Bacon (serves 6-8)

printable recipe

Prep time: 30 min.

Bake time: 30 min.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. pasta shells
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 10 oz. chopped spinach, cooked
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 egg
  • 12 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pepper to taste

Topping:

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In skillet, cook bacon and crumble. Reserve bacon fat on skillet for bread crumbs later. Boil spinach as instructed on box. Cook pasta in large pot of salted boiling water until al dente.

3) You can use either a 2 quart casserole dish, or two smaller casserole dishes to gain the maximum surface area for covering with golden bread crumbs. I used 2 dishes, of course. Pour pasta, bacon and spinach into dishes, mixing together.

4) In a medium size pot, make the sauce. Melt butter on medium heat, whisk in flour until thickened. Stir in milk, onion and paprika. Simmer for 10 minutes. Temper in egg. To temper, just stir in a few tablespoons of the hot milk from the pot into the egg, then pour the egg into sauce, stirring vigorously. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Add salt and pepper.

5) In the skillet with bacon fat, heat on medium and toss in bread crumbs to coat. If you have cholesterol issues, or feel that this is ‘unhealthy’, use olive oil instead of bacon fat.

6) Pour sauce into casserole dishes, mixing to combine. Add remainder of cheese, and sprinkle bread crumbs on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

______________________________________________________________________

 

Illustrated Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) In skillet, cook bacon and crumble. Reserve bacon fat on skillet for bread crumbs later. Boil spinach as instructed on box. Cook pasta in large pot of salted boiling water until al dente.

DSC_0058

DSC_0067

DSC_0072

DSC_0074

3) You can use either a 2 quart casserole dish, or two smaller casserole dishes to gain the maximum surface area for covering with golden bread crumbs. I used 2 dishes, of course. Pour pasta, bacon and spinach into dishes, mixing together.

DSC_0110

4) In a medium size pot, make the sauce. Melt butter on medium heat, whisk in flour until thickened.

DSC_0077 DSC_0078

Stir in milk, onion and paprika. Simmer for 10 minutes.

DSC_0083 DSC_0084

DSC_0086 DSC_0088

DSC_0091 DSC_0092

Temper in egg (sorry no picture!). To temper, just stir in a few tablespoons of the hot milk from the pot into the egg, then pour the egg into sauce, stirring vigorously.

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Add salt and pepper.

DSC_0065

DSC_0107

5) In the skillet with bacon fat, heat on medium and toss in bread crumbs to coat. If you have cholesterol issues, or feel that this is ‘unhealthy’, use olive oil instead of bacon fat.

DSC_0098

DSC_0102

DSC_0109

6) Pour sauce into casserole dishes, mixing to combine.

DSC_0111

DSC_0114

Add remainder of cheese,

DSC_0116

and sprinkle bread crumbs on top.

DSC_0121

Bake for 30 minutes.

DSC_0122

Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

DSC_0126

It’s ok, your monitor doesn’t need to be adjusted. Yes, we do add ketchup to our mac ‘n cheese. Stop giving me that disgusted look!

First I give you a fancy pants version of mac ‘n cheese, then I destroy the concept by doing something completely childish.

Back in college, I worked as a cook at a daycare for the summer. I should’ve added that in my resume…but in the menu rotation was mac ‘n cheese, and I was told to squirt a crapload of ketchup into the cheese sauce, to give it more flavor. So I did it, and it worked. Plus it gave the cheese that fake velveeta orangey look that every kid knows and loves. Then I started to do it at home. And when Chris saw me do it for the first time after we were married, he asked, “Who ARE you?! I don’t even know you anymore!” with a disgusted, embarrassed look on his face that put me to shame, as I lowered my head down to my plate, salty tears falling into a ketchupy, cheesy chaos.

But this plate I’m showing you isn’t mine.

Someone’s conforming…..

DSC_0137

Resistance is futile.

DSC_0141

Hey, at least I had some class. I put my ketchup on the side for dipping.


Related Posts

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

These homemade chicken nuggets had the right texture, flavor and consistency of a standard McDonald’s Chicken McNugget. However, it still tasted leaner (healthier) probably because I trimmed all the fat off the chicken pieces. I used a mixture of chicken breast meat and thigh meat, […]

Devil’s Cake Balls

Devil’s Cake Balls

If you haven’t heard of cake balls yet, I recommend that you check out Bakerella’s website to see what the fuss is all about. Cake balls are a great little invention; cooked cake batter crumbled and mixed with cream cheese frosting, rolled into balls, then […]



25 thoughts on “Shells ‘n Cheese, all growed up.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *