Monday, January 5, 2015

Creamy, Quick Shells and Cheese

What do you want to eat?  A question that we think to ourselves or ask others every. single. day.  There are an infinite amount of responses that can follow that simple question.  At my house, I can guarantee I will hear "macaroni and cheese" at least 5 to 6 times a week.

What is it that is so intoxicating about shells covered in gooey, creamy cheese?  The addiction starts when we're kids and never goes away.  It quickly goes from a quick, easy meal that your mom could through together in no-time to a comfort food and best friend for years to come.

Mac and cheese is one of those foods that's always there for you, no matter what goes on in your life. Whether it's just needing to take a time out and reflect on the simpler times (like childhood) or overcoming something not so great that happened that day.  Had a bad day at work?  Trouble in a relationship? Kiddos not listening to you?  Smooth it over and settle down with a big helping of macaroni and cheese.

Mac and cheese has been a staple in my life for as long as I can remember.  For the longest time I grew up on the stuff from the blue box...and I loved it.  I still do have a soft spot for it, to be honest.  But, you know me and you know I like to make my own version at home if at all possible.
Since my little guy has been stuck on the creamy, instant shells and cheese for quite sometime, I decided it was due time to see if I could replicate it at home...or buy stock in Velveeta!  So, I perused several recipes before coming across one from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, that was titled quick shells and cheese.  I read through the recipe, looked at the pictures and knew this could be the one.  She had never steered me wrong before, so I knew she wouldn't start now

This recipe consists of simple ingredients that are pantry staples.  The cheese sauce comes together in the time in takes the pasta to cook.  There's no process of making a roux, just warm up some milk and melt butter and add cheese and heat long enough to melt.  Once the sauce is done, the noodles are done and they get tossed in that golden pond of cheesy goodness.
This is everything I imagined it would be, and so much more.  It's just like the packaged Velveeta shells and cheese; the pasta has the perfect bite, the cheese is smooth, creamy and pure perfection.  So, the next time your kiddo or you get a craving for some mac and cheese, ditch the boxed stuff and try your hand at these quick shells and cheese.

Creamy, Quick Shells and Cheese

1 lb. mini pasta shells
2 Cups whole milk
1 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Cups shredded cheddar-jack*
1/2 Cup shredded American cheese*
8 Oz Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 Tsp black pepper
1/4-1/2 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp mustard powder


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season liberally with salt.  Add pasta and cook according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, combine the milk and butter in a large saucepan and place over medium heat.  Once the milk is heated and butter is melted add the cheeses and stir until melted.  Add the pepper, salt and mustard powder and stir to combine.

Drain the pasta then add to the cheese mixture and stir until pasta is coated.  Serve immediately.

*You can use any mixture of cheeses you have on hand, or that are on sale.  Just make sure you use Velveeta along with the shredded cheeses.

Recipe source: barely adapted The Pioneer Woman, via Food Network

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