Italian Mac N Cheese

I am pulling a recipe out of the vault of my family’s favorite recipes this week! I wrote this down watching a Food Network show 10+ years ago and have been making it ever since. Yes I wrote it down and didn’t print it! I think it was a Rachael Ray recipe but I’m not sure so thank you to whoever shared it first! I have tweaked it slightly over the years but didn’t change much because it’s pretty perfect. You just can’t go wrong with a homemade Italian cheese sauce, Italian sausage, buttery garlic mushrooms, and the tomatoes that brighten it all up!

Italian Mac N Cheese is a 30 minute meal that tastes like you worked for hours. If you want the process to move quickly, my biggest piece of advice is to prep everything ahead of time. Measure out the broth and cream, chop the mushrooms, mince the garlic, etc. While you’re prepping, start boiling your water too. The more prepared you are ahead of time, the less stressed you’ll be when you’re cooking. This dish is really fun to make!

Always salt your pasta water generously! Adds so much flavor!

I prefer to use crimini or baby bella mushrooms in this over button mushrooms because they have more flavor. Side note, my kids HATE mushrooms but still love this dish. They are easy to pick out!

Have you ever made a roux? Knowing how to make one is such a useful cooking skill because you’ll be able to make the most delicious homemade sauces and gravy. You do have to make one in the dish but it is so easy! It’s basically flour and fat cooked together to thicken a sauce. In this case, the fat is the butter and olive oil that the mushrooms are cooked in. Just sprinkle the flour on, cook for a minute or two, then add the liquid.

This is one of those dishes that will impress dinner guests because they’ll think you’ve been cooking all day. I have made it countless times over the years for company and everyone loves it. Because it’s a 30 minute meal, it is also great for busy week nights. It makes a lot too and makes great leftovers (if you don’t devour it all)! This is a win-win kind of meal!

Fresh out of the oven. Hard to tell but that’s a huge 12-inch skillet!

Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale at Lee’s the week of Jan 21-27: penne, Italian sausage, olive oil, butter, flour, chicken broth, Italian cheese blend, Parmesan, diced tomatoes

Italian Mac N Cheese

Ingredients

1 lb. penne pasta
1 lb. mild Italian sausage (bulk not links)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz package crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend, divided
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Preheat broiler.

Heat a large non-stick skillet (broiler safe) to medium-high heat. Cook and crumble sausage until brown then drain and set aside. Add olive oil and butter to the pan then add garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for a few minutes or until mushrooms are brown and soft.

Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and stir to make a roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the chicken stock and heavy cream. Bring to a low boil then stir in ¾ of the cheese blend. When the cheese melts, add tomatoes, salt, and pepper then stir. Bring to a boil then add pasta and sausage. Stir until everything is well combined.

Turn off heat and sprinkle remaining cheese blend and parmesan over the top. Place skillet in oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: If you do not have a broiler safe skillet, just transfer the pasta mixture to a baking dish. Sprinkle on cheeses and place under broiler.

Spinach Artichoke Baked Pasta

As the days grow colder, I am craving comfort foods and my Spinach Artichoke Baked Pasta definitely hits the spot. Think spinach artichoke dip and baked pasta combined-so good! All the yummy cheese makes it indulgent for sure but the addition of lemon juice and zest brightens it up and balances everything so well. This totally tastes fancy like you’ve made so much effort but it is not hard to make at all. I love meals like this! Minimal effort but BIG taste!

This is my go-to meal when I want to make my family a meatless meal. However, if you wanted to make it heartier and stretch it further, you could definitely add chicken. Rotisserie would be perfect! This dish also makes a great freezer meal! If you have 4 or less people to feed, you could easily split this into two casserole dishes and freeze one. You might notice that red onions are pictured but they were all I had when I needed to take pictures. Yellow onions are definitely preferred! Food blogger probs-ha!

This is one of those dinners that you’ll keep coming back to and will become a family favorite!

This is a sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace. Items on sale the week of November 5-11: cream cheese, Parmesan, frozen spinach, artichokes, mozzarella, olive oil, pasta

Spinach Artichoke Baked Pasta

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

16 oz short pasta (mini shells, orecchiette, penne)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sour cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened (room temp)
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated and divided
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
10 oz frozen spinach (thawed, excess water squeezed out)
14 oz can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1 ½ cups mozzarella, shredded and divided
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/3 cup pasta water before draining. Prepare 3-quart casserole dish by spraying with cooking spray.

Heat a skillet to medium and add oil and onions. Cook until onions are translucent and slightly browned. Add garlic and cook for one minute.

In a large bowl combine sour cream, cream cheese, ¾ cup Parmesan, ¾ cup mozzarella, lemon juice and zest, spinach, artichokes, onions, and garlic.

Add pasta, reserved pasta water, salt and pepper then stir to combine well.
Add pasta mixture to prepared pan. Top with remaining Parmesan and mozzarella.

Cook uncovered for 10-15 or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Butternut Squash & Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese

I was just thinking about this mac ‘n’ cheese that I created last year and realized that it wasn’t on my blog yet. Yikes! I developed the recipe last year for a Good Things Utah segment and it is one of my favorite segments to date. Watch me make it here!

Getting ready on the set of ABC4’s Good Things Utah!

So many of my friends have made this and loved it. You could definitely say its “grown-up” or “fancy” mac ‘n’ cheese. It requires a bit of effort but is sooooo worth it! The combo of roasted butternut squash, crispy bacon, creamy gruyere, and fresh rosemary is perfection! This is amazing alongside roasted chicken or pork and is the perfect side dish to take to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. You will definitely impress your family and guests with this elevated take on classic mac ‘n’ cheese! If you make it (or any of my recipes) please comment on my blog and share my recipes on social media. It will help me grow!

Butternut Squash & Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

1 butternut squash – peeled, de-seeded, and cubed (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup shallots, finely diced
1 stick (8 TB) butter, divided
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk (1%, 2%, or whole)
2 cups grated gruyere cheese, divided
2 cups grated sharp cheddar, divided
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
16 oz cavatappi pasta
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated parmesan
Kosher salt
Black pepper, freshly ground

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a 9×13 baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Heat a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta.
2. Place cubed squash on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in oven to roast for 20 minutes or until pieces are fork tender. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash half of the pieces (doesn’t have to be completely smooth). Leave on tray and set aside.
3. When water boils for pasta, add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to the water then cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
4. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and place on a towel-lined plate to drain. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the skillet.
5. Turn the heat for the skillet to medium then add diced shallots. Cook until translucent.
6. Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the shallots. Once melted, whisk in 4 tablespoons of flour. Cook for about 1 minute or until the flour starts to brown. Whisk in milk with a slow, steady stream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
7. Once the sauce thickens (coats the back of a spoon), add 1 ½ cups of gruyere and 1 ½ cups of cheddar. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and about ½ teaspoon of pepper. Stir until cheese is melted then turn off the heat.
8. Add rosemary, bacon, butternut squash and drained pasta to the cheese sauce. Stir to combine. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish.
9. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a bowl. Add panko and parmesan and stir to combine.
10. Add remaining gruyere and cheddar to the pasta then sprinkle the panko mixture on top.
11. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until topping starts to brown.
The GTU crew devoured my mac ‘n’ cheese after the show wrapped! Love these people!

Creamy Pasta Primavera

Ahhh summer! I certainly have veggies on my mind lately as my garden starts to flourish, farmers markets are everywhere, and every time I shop at Lee’s Marketplace I find the BEST local produce. My garden is pretty small so I love knowing that I can find whatever it lacks when I shop at Lee’s! I wanted to make something this week that was full of fresh vegetables, kid-approved, and didn’t require my oven because it’s just too hot outside. My Creamy Pasta Primavera checked all those boxes and then some! Make it your own with whatever vegetables or fresh herbs you like. Check the recipe notes for ideas! From start to finish it took me only 45 minutes to make. The thing that took the longest was chopping the vegetables but that’s the fun part anyway! The creamy alfredo sauce is divine and will be your new go-to for sure. This is a super easy, delicious meal and it makes a lot! (Sponsored post for Lee’s Marketplace)

Items on sale at Lee’s this week: Penne pasta, butter, bell peppers, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese (also fresh green beans and tomatoes if you’d like to use those in the recipe!)

Creamy Pasta Primavera

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

16 oz penne pasta
4 Tablespoons butter
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 2 inch pieces
1 broccoli crown, chopped into florets (about 2 cups)
1 yellow squash, sliced into half-moons
¾ cup shredded carrots
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz cream cheese
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

Directions

Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain, set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, broccoli, squash, carrots and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until crisp tender.

Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add cream cheese, heavy cream, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Stir for a few minutes until everything melts and thickens a little.

Add parsley and chicken then stir to combine. Add drained pasta and stir until pasta is coated in sauce. Garnish wish more parsley and Parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.

*Notes: Many different vegetables can be subbed or added to those used in this recipe such as green beans, zucchini, red onion, and tomatoes as well as other herbs such as rosemary or basil.

I think we need a closer look! Beautiful and delicious!

Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

Y’all know that I like to add a little Tex-Mex to any dish that I can.  I have been dreaming up this salad for a while now and love how it turned out!  I tried to think of as many ingredients that reminded me of home to put in this salad. Cheddar cheese, bacon, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, lime…yum! You’ll find a jar of pickled jalapenos on every table, at almost every supper, where I grew up in East Texas. Add more jalapenos if you want it spicier! Black beans would be a great addition to this pasta salad as well. My son hates beans so I was nice and left them out! This pasta salad is the perfect dish to take to all of your summer BBQs!

Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

16 oz bowtie pasta
1 (11 oz) can Mexicorn, drained
8 oz cheddar cheese, small cubes
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 oz can sliced black olives, drained
1/3 cup pickled jalapenos, finely diced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
½ cup cilantro, chopped

Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, make dressing by whisking together mayo, sour cream, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, sugar, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.