Make it. Eat it. Love it.
Comfort food: food that brings some form or measure of comfort, sense of well-being, or easy satisfaction. Such food choices may consist of the simple and familiar.
For me, and many others wont disagree, macaroni and cheese is one of those time honored classic American comfort foods. Whether its out of the box or a batch of your mom’s recipe, everyone feels a little better after a bowl. I think the first thing I made for myself when I was no longer living at home was macaroni and cheese. It was just one of those meals that reminded me of home. My mom would always make it whenever requested. She had a recipe that was fast, easy and to the point. It consisted of just 4 ingredients; macaroni, butter, cheese and milk. She never wrote down the recipe because nothing was really measured. “Just use a lot of cheese, the more the better, a BIG hunk of butter and cover it all in milk” is what she told me. The best thing about moms recipe was that it used fat free american cheese (kraft singles), margarine, and skim milk. Even though it was ‘diet’ still, nothing ever compared to mom’s mac and cheese, nothing. And though there is nothing like the original, nothing like what you grew up loving, this following mac and cheese recipe is one that can rival any other, even moms.
This version of the classic uses 3 different types of cheeses, shrimp and pancetta. I think that lobster would be a divine substitute for shrimp. If you are not a lover of sea food, leave it out! I am pretty sure it would be amazing with just the pancetta. Or try chorizio instead of pancetta. Be creative, follow your palette! Hey go vegetarian, nix the shrimp and pancetta altogether and mix in some chopped broccoli. You could of course just make it with the cheese too! The possibilities are endless.
Unfortunately this recipe is not quite as calorie friendly as my moms. Though I suppose you could use reduced fat cheese and skim milk, but why bother? As Julia Child said, “The only time to eat diet food is when you’re waiting for the steak to cook”. Or mac and cheese with shrimp and fried pancetta in this case.
1 stick butter, divided (plus more for greasing baking dish)
4 to 6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
1 lb shrimp, cooked, cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups milk (plus a little more)
2 3/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 pound macaroni ( whatever your favorite is!)
In a pan with some olive oil, saute shrimp until cooked, cut into bite size chunks and set aside.
Melt 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the pancetta and sauté until browned and crisp.
Add the onion and sauté until lightly browned and softened.
Add the red pepper and garlic, stir 1 minute.
Add 2 1/2 tablespoons butter to pancetta mixture and allow to melt, add the flour and
stir to coat everything evenly.
Gradually whisk in milk; simmer until mixture has thickened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheeses and shrimp.
If necessary whisk in more milk to render the sauce thick but pourable.
Season with salt and pepper. (At this point you may just want to take a large ladle and eat the sauce, but dont, try and resist the urge)
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the panko and toast until lightly golden.
Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350F and grease a large baking dish with butter.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al denté.
Drain and return pasta to pot and add the cheese sauce, tossing to coat.
Season with salt and pepper as necessary.
Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish and sprinkle panko over top.
Bake until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Keep checking as you dont want to over cook it in the oven. The key is you want to keep it nice and creamy!!