Tuesday, February 8, 2011

School lunch macaroni and cheese

Once in a while, my kids would get bored with cafeteria food at school and requests that I make school lunches for them. Let's face it. Foods served at public schools across the nation can be inedible at times and are downright unhealthy. The menu may says chicken sandwich but all it is is a mystery meat patty that does not look or taste like chicken, sandwiched between 2 dry pieces of buns with nothing else. Corn dog remains one of the most regularly served items at my kids' school cafeteria. It makes me cringe everytime I look at their weekly lunch menu. Overprocessed food with too little healthy options. Anyway, this mac and cheese is pretty easy to make. Takes less than 30 minutes to whip up.

1/2 lb or 8 ounces of dry elbow pasta
2 cups of milk (2% or whole, never skim)
1 cup of shredded mild cheddar (+ 1/4 cup more for sprinkling on top of pasta)
1/2 cup of shredded provolone chese
1/2 cup of shredded mozarella cheese
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 shallot, chopped
1 stalk of celery, diced
1/4 cup of diced pancetta or mild italian sausage
black pepper to taste
2 tbsps of olive oil

1. Cook pasta according to package's instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside. Save some pasta water for later use. Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Heat up olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and fry for 2 minutes until aromatic. Add pancetta and celery then stir to mix. Pour in the milk. As soon as little bubbles form around the pan edges, stir in all the cheeses and mix well until they are melted. If cheese sauce is too thick, add 1/4 cup or more of pasta water to slightly dilute the sauce. Add the pasta and mix well. Season with black pepper. No salt needed.
3. Spray a baking or casserole dish with a little cooking oil spray. Pour pasta mixture into the dish and sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese on top. Add a little more black pepper for extra flavor. Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese are bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool slightly then it's ready to be packed for lunch. Makes 2 to 3 servings depending on the kids' appetites.

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