Cheesy Elbow Pasta – Comfort Food for a Fancy Dinner

This recipe hardly needs an introduction; pasta and cheese have been baked together in Italy and the rest of Europe for centuries.  Thomas Jefferson famously popularized macaroni in the US at the turn of the 19th Century.  In Canada, when it was still a British colony in the mid 1800s, the dish arrived through new immigrants from other parts of the Empire, and allegedly Canada is the top consumer of Kraft Dinner™ (boxed macaroni and cheese); this love for the humble dish has been even epitomized in a song (see FUN FACTS at the end).  In Mexico, thin noodles from the Middle East (fideos) were brought by the Spaniards sometime during colonial times (1521-1821); baked pastas became known during the Second French Intervention under the short rule of Austrian Archduke Maximilian (1864-1867), and more broadly under the long presidency of Porfirio Díaz (1884-1911), who favoured European architecture and cuisines, particularly if Italian or French.  Nowadays, this dish, AKA macaroni cheese, Mac ‘n’ Cheese, or “Coditos en salsa de queso” continues to be comfort food that may be a weekday meal on its own, or a side dish as part of a special dinner, as presented in my previous post.  When gathering with friends in the “Before COVID19” era, cheesy elbow pasta was also a staple at pot lucks and buffet tables, cooked in large batches; to move with the times, I am sharing my mom’s recipe adapted to smaller quantities, enough for four portions.  

Cheesy Elbow Pasta- Coditos en salsa de queso

Printable recipe: Cheesy Elbow Pasta

Ingredients (for four portions)

1 cup dry elbow pasta
4 tbsp butter
¼ cup all-purpose wheat flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups shredded melting cheese, such as Chihuahua, friulano, mozzarella, etc.
Salt, to taste
½ tsp white pepper, preferably freshly ground
Pinch ground nutmeg
½ cup bread crumbs

Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish with two tablespoons of butter; set aside.  Bring a generous amount of water to boil in a large pot over high heat; add a pinch of salt and the pasta, and cook over medium-high heat until al dente.  Drain pasta into a colander and transfer to prepared baking dish.  Set oven to 375°F (190°C).  Spread bread crumbs on a baking sheet with rim, and bake until golden brown; do not leave oven unattended, the bread crumbs brown fast and may burn easily; set aside.  

Melt the rest of the butter in a pot over medium heat; add flour and cook, stirring (photo below, left), for two to three minutes until smooth.  Add milk slowly while vigorously stirring with a wooden spoon, to incorporate all together, and avoid clumps (photo below, right:

Add salt, pepper and pinch of nutmeg (photo below, left); continue cooking and stirring until the sauce is smooth and starts to thicken.  Add one cup of shredded cheese (photo below, right):

Turn off the heat and mix until the cheese has melted.  Pour cheesy sauce over pasta (photo below, left); add the rest of the cheese, incorporating and leveling with the back of the spoon (photo below, right): 

Sprinkle reserved toasted bread crumbs all over the top (photo below, left).  Bake in preheated oven, uncovered, until heated through, and sauce is gently bubbling.  Serve while the dish is hot and the cheese is stringy (photo below, right):

For this amounts, it is possible to bake this dish in a toaster oven and, because the bread crumbs were pre-toasted, using a microwave oven for just a few minutes until the cheese melts, works well, too.  This is useful when preparing this small dish on its own, or when the regular oven is being used to bake large items, such as meat or pastries.  In the photo below, featured as part of the full dinner from my previous post:


FUN FACTS:  Kraft Dinner™ is the most purchased grocery item in Canada, with a per capita consumption of 3.2 boxes each year, 55% higher than in the United States (2012 data).   And how about some ambient music while enjoying a bowl of homemade or boxed mac ‘n’ cheese?  In their song “If I had a Million Dollars” (1992 Reprise Records), Canadian band “The Barenaked Ladies”  make a reference to a variety of things that a millionaire could succumb to, including getting exotic pets and (more!) boxed mac ‘n’ cheese, the Canadian way: 

If I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
Well I’d buy you a house (I would buy you a house)
And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you furniture for your house (maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman)
And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you a k-car (a nice reliant automobile)
And if I had a million dollars I’d buy your love
 
If I had a million dollars I’d build a tree fort in our yard
If I had a million dollars you could help, it wouldn’t be that hard
If I had a million dollars maybe we could put a little tiny refrigerator in there somewhere
(You know we could just go up the and hang out)
(Like open the fridge and stuff and, girl, there’d be foods laid out for us)
(With little pre-wrapped sausages and things, hmm)
(They have pre-wrapped sausages but they don’t have pre-wrapped bacon)
(Can you blame them? Yeah)
 
If I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
I’d buy you a fur coat (but not a real fur coat that’s cruel)
And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
Well I’d buy you an exotic pet (yep, like a llama or an emu)
And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
Well I’d buy you John Merrick’s remains (all them crazy elephant bones)
And if I had a million dollars I’d buy your love
 
If I had a million dollars we wouldn’t have to walk to the store
If I had a million dollars we’d take a limousine ’cause it costs more
If I had a million dollars we wouldn’t have to eat Kraft dinner
(But we would eat Kraft dinner)
(Of course we would, we’d just eat more)
(And buy really expensive ketchups with it)
(That’s right, all the fanciest dijon ketchups, hmm)
 
If I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
Well I’d buy you a green dress (but not a real green dress, that’s cruel)
And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
Well I’d buy you some art (a Picasso or a Garfunkel)
If I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars)
Well I’d buy you a monkey (haven’t you always wanted a monkey?)
 
If I had a million dollars, I’d buy your love
If I had a million dollars, if I had a million dollars
If I had a million dollars, if I had a million dollars
If I had a million dollars
I’d be rich
 
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Ed Robertson / Steven Page

I am joining epic writer Jim Adams, host of “Song Lyric Sunday”.  Today’s topic is Domesticated Animals, with the prompts: Bird/Cat/Dog/Fish/Pet.  ” … And if I had a million dollars (if I had a million dollars), well I’d buy you an exotic pet (yep, like a llama or an emu) …”


I am joining What’s for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up #291 with Helen @ The Lazy Gastronome.


I am sharing my recipe at Over the Moon #253, graciously hosted by Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, and Marilyn @ Marilyn’s Treats.


I am also sharing my recipe at Thursday Favourite Things #467, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.


I am bringing my recipe to Full Plate Thursday #513 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.


I am bringing this recipe to Fiesta Friday #357 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday, this week co-hosting with Diann @ Of Goats & Greens.

13 thoughts on “Cheesy Elbow Pasta – Comfort Food for a Fancy Dinner

    1. Yeah, that song just sends one back to the 90s, doesn’t it? Wow gluten and dairy free mac ‘n’ cheese? Sounds like a real challenge! My vegetarian daughter made a dairy free batch once with cooked mashed carrots and nutritional yeast instead of cheese, but still used regular pasta and flour. Let me know how it worked for you, Victoria!

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    1. Thanks, and thank you for hosting, Jim! I have had fish, and currently a dog, and I would love some hens, but they are not allowed in urban areas around here.

      Like

  1. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
    ********************************************************

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