Recipes » Shells and cheese

This is a simple twist on my late grandfather’s macaroni and cheese bake. The main difference between mine and his is the technique: he layered in pasta and cheese and poured a milk mixture atop it, while I mix the cheese and milk together in one pot to pour over. Oh, and the insane amounts of paprika.

Also, don’t forget Deli Deluxe brand cheese in specific! (If you’re not in the US, I’m not sure what to say.)

Author: Seth Price
Category: Entrée
Date published: 20 February 2020

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
Yield: About 4–6 bowls

Ingredients

The actual dish

  • 1kg dried conchiglie or pasta of choice
  • 700mL (2 12oz cans) evaporated milk
  • 1lb Deli Deluxe cheese
  • 30g (2T) unsalted butter, cold
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1T dijon mustard
  • 2T smoked paprika
  • large pinch black pepper
  • pinch grated nutmeg
  • salt to taste

Breadcrumbs

  • 100g (1 cup) breadcrumbs, such as panko
  • 100g (6½T) unsalted butter
  • Large pinch onion powder
  • Monosodium glutamate to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4).
  2. Parboil pasta in heavily salted water till just below al dente: firm yet technically chewable. Preferably, do this while making the cheese sauce.
  3. Heat milk on medium flame till hot but not boiling. Reduce flame to low to maintain temperature. Add butter, all in one chunk if possible to prevent fat from separating out. Tear up cheese and add just a couple slices’ worth at a time to encourage emulsion, whisking constantly. Add remaining ingredients, whisking to incorporate.
  4. Grease a sufficiently sized casserole. Add pasta, leaving at least 1cm (½in) at the top for sauce boil-over. Pour sauce to cover, taking care to neither expose pasta nor come too close to the top. (Note: this will look like a sad soup at this stage, but just have faith!)
  5. Cover top of casserole with aluminium foil and bake on center rack till golden: about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the breadcrumb ingredients in a saucepan over low flame, adding just enough butter to have a “sandy” texture.
  6. Uncover casserole, add breadcrumbs and bake uncovered till nicely browned: about 20 minutes. Remove and let rest for at least 45 minutes.
  7. Serve warm, but not hot. Optionally top with a bit of something acidic, like pickled diced pimiento (my personal favourite). Cover and chill leftovers. – For the love of God, don’t use a microwave oven to reheat this or the texture will be horrendous.