Macaroni and cheese – comfort food at its best. This is our take on it – no bread crumb topping, cavatappi rather than macaroni, made on the stovetop with peas and ham, but without the ubiquitous blue box. And, no, your kids won’t even miss it.
- 1 lb. cavatappi (De Cecco brand)
- kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 5 cups milk (skim, 2%, or whole all work fine – we usually use skim)
- 8 ounces (2 cups) Monterey Jack cheese, freshly grated (don’t use the preshredded stuff)
- 8 ounces (2 cups) white or yellow extra sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated (again, don’t give into temptation – grate it yourself, you’ll be glad you did!)
- 1 pound bag of frozen peas (no need to defrost) and/or broccoli or spinach
- 8 ounces of baked deli ham, sliced thick and cut into cubes
- Tabasco sauce, for sprinkling at table (try it!)
In the now empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta, peas, and ham and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is steaming and heated through, about 6 minutes. Serve with Tabasco if desired.
To reheat: Warm gently on stovetop and add milk as needed to get sauce creamy again.