Pasta

Grandma Mac and Cheese

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All of my grandchildren think that I make the absolute most wonderful, bestest, most delicious mac and cheese. And they expect at least one mac and cheese dinner when they come for a visit.

No worries. I always have one in my freezer, just in case there is ever a surprise knock on my door from one of them.

Of course I thought my grandma made the best mac and cheese too. Hers came out of a box and the cheese part were some granules that came in a separate foil package. She was supposed to mix the granules with milk and butter I think, but she never did. She just opened the package and sprinkled it on top of the cooked elbows. 

That's the way all of us grandchildren thought mac and cheese was supposed to taste. And of course, grandma made it best.

It's the way I made it for my kids. Because that was the best.

Somewhere along the way I tasted actual homemade macaroni and cheese. It was a revelation. It was wonderful. Which is NOT to say that grandma's wasn't good. It was just a whole different dish. I still think of it with fond memories. My daughters think of it with fond memories. And, btw, they also made the packaged kind and sprinkled the dry cheesy granules on top for their children. And their children love that too and probably will have fond memories of that dish.

But when they come to visit me, it's the other kind they expect and love. The from-scratch kind.

They're also pretty clear about how they like it too: moist but not overly sauced, with a combo of American and cheddar cheeses and a crispy top. No added things like tomato or cooked vegetables. No crust -- just maybe some extra grated cheese.

This is the one:

 

Grandma Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound small pasta such as elbows

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3 cups milk (preferably whole milk)

  • 14-16 ounces mixed American and cheddar cheeses plus extra for garnish, shredded

  • salt to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions, rinse under cold water, drain and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, turn the heat to low-medium, add the flour and cook, stirring with a whisk, for 2-3 minutes, but do not let the mixture become brown. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk to keep the sauce smooth. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Add most of the cheeses, leaving some to top the dish as garnish. Add some salt and continue to whisk the sauce until all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta and mix to coat all the pieces. Eat as is, sprinkled with extra cheese, OR place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes to crisp the top. 

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Comforting Pasta Amatriciana

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When you feel let down or sad you need to do something special to help cheer yourself up.

Some people shop, some go to a spa for a facial, some exercise like crazy (when my brother was going through a divorce he ran super marathons -- 110 miles!)

To say that the election of 2016 was a disappointment for me is a huge understatement. 

I need cheering up, and my favorite coping mechanism is: eating. Mostly potatoes. So one night I had two baked potatoes for dinner.

But now I need real, actual food, a regular dinner entree. Something more substantial and also comforting. 

Pasta! 

With red sauce. AND smokey with (I use Jack's Gourmet Facon) bacon and (I used Jack's Gourmet Sweet Italian Beef Sausage) sausage. And a little gentle (chili pepper) heat.

Bucatini Amatriciana!

Yum.

Celebration-worthy.

Kosher Pasta Amatriciana

  • 4 ounces kosher beef or lamb bacon, chopped
  • 3 ounces kosher Italian style sausage, diced
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 pounds tomatoes, chopped (or use canned tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound cooked bucatini

Cook the bacon in a large saucepan over low-medium heat until lightly crispy. Add the sausage and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the meats are browned. Remove the meats with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour the olive oil into the pan. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the garlic, cook briefly, then add the tomatoes, parsley and red pepper. Return the bacon and sausage to the sauce. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Pour over the pasta, toss and serve. 

 Makes 4 servings

 

Grandma Hoffman's Skinny Noodle Crusty-Top Mushroom Onion Kugel

Kugel is the kind of food that people can get into an argument about.

The issues can become monumental.

Like -- should it be sweet or salty?

have cheese or not? 

if cheese-- what kind?

And lots more.

Including this biggie -- what width noodles to use!

Skinny? Medium? Wide?

OY!

Here's my answer. Medium or wide for sweet, creamy, dairy-based or fruit-laden kugels served as side dishes with dairy or for dessert, because you want more pasta-surface area to absorb the sauce.

BUT, definitely skinny noodles for a savory kugel because you want it crispy on top to crunch under the pan juices or gravy that come with the tender meat and vegetables.

I grew up in a family where salty kugels were the thing. And ALWAYS made with the skinniest of noodles.

Here's my grandma's recipe. If you make it in a shallow baking pan the entire kugel is one huge crunch. Use a deeper pan if you prefer some soft noodles under the crusty top.

Grandma Hoffman's Mushroom Onion Kugel

  • 10 ounces skinny egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or schmaltz
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 10 ounces fresh mushrooms, any variety, sliced
  • 2 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • paprika

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions, until the noodles are tender but not mushy. Drain under cold water and set aside. While the noodles are cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Set aside. Place the noodles in a large bowl. Add the vegetables with any accumulated juices, and stir the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the eggs and some salt and pepper to taste and mix them in. Place the mixture inside a baking dish. Sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake for about 25 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees and cook for another 10 minutes or until the top is crispy and browned.

Makes 8 servings

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Some people are lucky enough to grow tomatoes and by this time in August the vines in their gardens are hanging low with red, ripe, wonderful stuff waiting to be picked.  Some of those lucky people have so many tomatoes they don’t even know what to do with them.  I am not one of those people. As I have  written , I got two measly little tomatoes from the plants I tried to grow in my backyard.   But a friend took pity on me as she does every year. Because this happens every year. She nods her head at my pathetic little tomato patch and brings me a whole harvest from hers. I am so lucky to have her in my life (for many reasons).  I know what to do with those tomatoes too. After having my fill on  sandwiches , eating them with avocados and  stuffing  and baking them as a side dish, I make red sauce for spaghetti.  Red sauce made with fresh tomatoes is an entirely different thing than the kind made with canned. I am not saying either is better. Just different.  See for yourself. This recipe is really easy:  Fresh Tomato Sauce     16-18 plum tomatoes or 8 large tomatoes  3 tablespoons olive oil  1 medium onion, chopped  1 large clove garlic, chopped  3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil  salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste     Heat a large pot of water. When it comes to a boil, add the tomatoes. Cook for 20 seconds. Drain the tomatoes under cold water. Pierce the tomato near the stem end with the tip of a sharp knife and pull back to remove the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-30 minutes, or until it has reached the desired consistency. Makes enough for one pound of pasta (about 3 cups)      

Some people are lucky enough to grow tomatoes and by this time in August the vines in their gardens are hanging low with red, ripe, wonderful stuff waiting to be picked.

Some of those lucky people have so many tomatoes they don’t even know what to do with them.

I am not one of those people. As I have written, I got two measly little tomatoes from the plants I tried to grow in my backyard. 

But a friend took pity on me as she does every year. Because this happens every year. She nods her head at my pathetic little tomato patch and brings me a whole harvest from hers. I am so lucky to have her in my life (for many reasons).

I know what to do with those tomatoes too. After having my fill on sandwiches, eating them with avocados and stuffing and baking them as a side dish, I make red sauce for spaghetti.

Red sauce made with fresh tomatoes is an entirely different thing than the kind made with canned. I am not saying either is better. Just different.

See for yourself. This recipe is really easy:

Fresh Tomato Sauce

 

16-18 plum tomatoes or 8 large tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large clove garlic, chopped

3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Heat a large pot of water. When it comes to a boil, add the tomatoes. Cook for 20 seconds. Drain the tomatoes under cold water. Pierce the tomato near the stem end with the tip of a sharp knife and pull back to remove the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and squeeze out the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-30 minutes, or until it has reached the desired consistency. Makes enough for one pound of pasta (about 3 cups)