Most recipes call for elbow macaroni, but using shells makes this… incredible!
If you have read many of my recipes and posts you probably know I travel off the beaten path, but it’s not different for difference sake, there’s a reason. Shells have more surface area and have a nice pocket to fill with sauce. I also find shells to be more toothsome with a nice firm al dente bite. Texture and utility is a great combination.
The sauce however, makes or breaks this dish. I prefer a smooth and creamy sauce that coats your taste buds with the first bite. No stringy, oily cheeses allowed. That’s why any hard cheese like a sharp cheddar is verboten and it’s why you don’t find mozzarella in a mac and cheese recipe. Who wants to use a scissors to cut the cord with each dip from the serving dish?
Everyone loves it but there is a schism among mac and cheese lovers. The dividing line is based upon the conviction to bake, or not bake. This can be a touchy subject so I shall tread lightly here.
Personally, I am in the no-bake camp. Give me the shells coated in the luscious cheesy sauce and my eyes roll into the back of my head while I do a happy dance. However I do appreciate the texture that can be added with a few breadcrumbs. If you are a person of the baked persuasion then I recommend you cover the shells and cheese with panko bread crumbs in a baking dish and broil for a few minutes or so until they brown.
And just one more thing…
My grandson refuses to even taste my shells and cheese because it’s the wrong color. A certain boxed variety is his favorite and he likes the orange flavor. Sigh.Print
Incredible Shells and Cheese
Pasta shells immersed in a luscious blend of cheeses!
- Yield: 4-6 1x
- 8 oz medium shells
- 8 oz white american cheese – shredded
- 6–8 oz gruyere cheese – shredded
- 1 pint of half and half
- 2 TBL butter
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 TBL flour
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- Coarse non-iodized salt for the pasta water
- Shred your cheeses, weigh your shells, measure out your butter and flour
- Place a pot of well salted water on at medium heat
- Melt butter in a sauce pan to make your roux
- Whisk in flour and cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes
- Add the half and half, nutmeg, white pepper and a half tsp of sea salt
- Stir to incorporate while the temperature rises enough to melt the cheese
- Turn up the heat on the water to high until it is a rolling boil
- Add the pasta and boil for 7-9 minutes or per pasta makers instruction. Taste it to make sure it’s al dente and do not overcook
- While the pasta is boiling stir in the cheese with a spatula a little at a time to your sauce until it’s all melted
- Taste the cheese sauce and adjust the flavor with salt and pepper to suit yourself
- When pasta is done, drain it well, then fold it into the cheese sauce on low heat