It's the time of year now - crisp cool fall - that I really start to crave those gooey, creamy, rich comfort foods. And macaroni & cheese is definitely one of my favorites! I liked it as a kid, but I think if it's possible, I actually like it more now as an adult! I think I have a better appreciation now for all the delicious ingredients and seasonings that as a child probably didn't impress me much! I've played with my recipe enough now, that I have it exactly to my preferences - that gooey cheesy goodness smothered over warm chewy pasta and that little crunch of breadcrumbs on top – YUM!
I was going to call this recipe "Grown Up Macaroni & Cheese", but then I remembered that I cut up 2 hotdogs and mixed them in (because my husband still requests them in his mac & cheese and I am an excellent wife! ;) haha…) which probably isn’t the most "grown-up" thing to do… and then I also remembered that I don't actually use macaroni-shaped pasta in this recipe… so technically it's not "macaroni" and cheese either… So the name that I landed on was "Smoked Gouda Baked Campanelle & Cheese with Mix-ins" ("mix-ins" sounds more grown up than "hotdogs", right?) So, maybe I'm over thinking this a bit! Well, despite what you call it (…a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…) this has become my favorite baked mac & cheese recipe ever! Hopefully you will give it a try and love it as much as I do! It really is such a versatile recipe, you can substitute/add/omit just about anything and make it exactly to suit your tastes!
While that's cooking up in a pot of salted water and the oven is preheating to 400 degrees F, I shred a whole 8 oz block of smoked gouda cheese. I'm going to put the WHOLE thing in this pasta. (Except the amount that I can't keep myself from eating before it makes it in).
Next, I sauté up some sweet onion & garlic in butter until it's nice and translucent
Then after it's nice and creamy, I add in those yummy seasonings.
The cooked pasta goes into the sauce and then I cut up those hotdogs and add them in… this is just a favorite of my hubby's that he has always liked since he was a kid (and hey, you're already indulging in a highly fattening comfort food anyways… why not just add the hotdogs?? haha!) I use Kunzler's All Beef Franks, so that makes it slightly healthier. If hotdogs aren't your thing, diced ham can be really delicious in mac and cheese! Or even something a little healthier yet, like maybe some broccoli, spinach, or another of your favorite veggies… the options are really endless…
And then pour everything into a greased 8x8 dish. I combine about 1/4 (packed again) cup of gouda (or however much of it is left) and cheddar cheese with about 1/4 cup Panko. Sometimes I add another few Tablespoons of Panko depending on my mood. I mix that up with my fingers and then sprinkle it over the pasta with maybe an extra little sprinkle of paprika over top.
And then into oven for 20 minutes.
This is just an all around excellent dish packed with unique flavor! Not the healthiest meal, but every once in a while you just need some good, fattening, creamy, cheesy goodness! :)
Smoked Gouda Baked Campanelle & Cheese (With Optional Mix-ins)
Yield: 4 Servings
1/2 lb (8 oz) Campanelle Pasta (or pasta of your preference)
2 tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup Sweet Onion, diced
1-2 cloves Garlic, crushed or diced
2 tablespoons Flour
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
1 cup + 1/4 cup Smoke Gouda, shredded
1 cup + 1/4 cup White Cheddar, shredded
1/4 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon Ground Mustard, or to taste
2 Hotdogs, sliced (or you could use about 1 cup of fully cooked diced ham or veggie)
1/4 cup Panko
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8x8 baking dish.
Cook pasta in salted water until al dente according to package directions. Drain.
In a large sauce pan, melt butter and add diced onion. Sauté on med-high heat until translucent and tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add crushed garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add flour and continue to cook about another minute. Slowly whisk in milk, a little at a time, and continue to cook until the mixture has thickened, stirring almost constantly. Lower heat and add 1 cup of Smoked Gouda & 1 cup of White Cheddar cheese and stir until fully combined and creamy.
Stir in salt, pepper, paprika, & mustard.
Remove from heat and gently stir in cooked pasta & sliced hotdogs. Place into the prepared greased baking dish.
In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup smoked gouda, 1/4 cup white cheddar, and 1/4 cup panko. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the pasta. If desired, sprinkle top with extra Paprika.
Place dish into the preheated oven and bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.