Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shells with Many Cheeses

Sometimes good old macaroni and cheese just hits the spot. Now I seem to have mostly grown out of liking the stuff with orange powder, and I have never particularly liked the baked version. Somehow it seems the pasta is always overcooked, and there is always too much sauce for my liking. (As Maria Batali says, though most assuredly not referring to macaroni and cheese, pasta should not swim in sauce, rather it should be dressed the way a salad is dressed--sparingly. In my opinion, same goes for mac 'n cheese.) So when I get that craving, I pull out all the remnants of cheese in my fridge and begin to think it through. It's great to have some strong cheese mixed in--any blue, goat, or feta works well. Parmagiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, or Pecorino add a good depth of flavor as well. And cheddar, or course, is always good. This time I had aged Gouda, Roquefert, pepper jack, and a tad of cheddar. But really this is not a dish for which you make a grocery list, this is a dish for which you pull out any bits of cheese hiding in your fridge. Grate up all the cheese, whip up a bechamel sauce with some thyme, melt the cheese in it, and toss the cooked shells with the sauce. It's that simple (I promise, bechamel actually is simple).

Mini Shells with Many Cheeses
1/2 pound mini shells
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
about 1 cup grated cheeses (vary this quantity depending on what cheese you have, how cheesy you want it, etc.)
freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste

Heat a pot of boiling water for the pasta, and cook according to package directions.

While the water is heating and the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan. When it is melted and hot, whisk in the flour. Cook the flour for 30 seconds, before pouring in the cold milk all at once. Whisk to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Toss in the cheese and stir to melt. Season as needed with salt and pepper. Keep hot until the pasta is done, and then toss the pasta with the cheese sauce and serve.


  1. Sounds perfect! Now I'm craving mac n cheeses at 10 am!

  2. This sounds delish. I once tried a mix of cheeses and it got vetoed by Mitch & his Dad. Mitch's taste buds have expanded their horizons since then.