Art Smith’s Macaroni and Cheese

A decadent, ooey gooey baked macaroni and cheese that is perfect for your Christmas table or for a cozy weeknight at home. It can even be prepped earlier in the week and baked later! A tried and true family favorite!

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese | thepajamachef.com - a family favorite that can be prepared ahead of time. If I had to choose one last meal, this macaroni and cheese would be it. I know there’s lots of other good meals out there, but mac and cheese is HARD to beat. And if it’s your last meal, then the healthier choices don’t matter very much, do they? :) Sorry, didn’t mean to get into a philosophical mood there. It just sorta happened. And I suggest that this macaroni and cheese just “sorta” happens in your world soon. It’s simply the best!

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese | thepajamachef.com - a family favorite that can be prepared ahead of time. My mom’s been making it for years, and it’s really the ultimate mac and cheese. It’s baked, so it has those crispy edges that we all know and love, but unlike some other baked pasta dishes, the middle has lots of ooey gooey cheesy goodness. There’s really no other way to describe it besides ultimate, divine, incredible, and utterly amazing! You can be somewhat flexible with the cheese that you use–using some cheddar and some parmesan is a must, but other than that, anything goes! American, colby, an Italian blend, gouda… If it’s cheese, it should be good!

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese | thepajamachef.com - a family favorite that can be prepared ahead of time. I always serve this pasta with a big green salad or another veggie side. As you can tell it was summertime when I took these pictures at my parents’ house, but we enjoy this pasta year round. It would be a great addition to your Christmas table, too. It’s a great side dish since it’s SO rich. We easily get at least 12 servings. Enjoy!!

one year ago: Cranberry-Pistachio Citrus Butter Cookies
two years ago: Streuseled Cran-Apple Sweet Potato Casserole
four years ago: Sweet Potato Soup

Art Smith's Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 12+
  • Time: 60 minutes
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from Art Smith’s Back to the Table

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta – elbow macaroni or penne recommended
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 4 cups cheese, shredded – definitely use half cheddar + something else of your choice [he suggests American, but just go with what you feel like – Italian blend, colby, gouda, etc.]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • hot pepper sauce [I use Frank’s]
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions, then drain.

Meanwhile, grease a large casserole dish [a 9×13 pan works, as does any 4 quart casserole dish] and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk. The milk doesn’t have to be hot but it shouldn’t be cold either. Room temperature or gently heated in the microwave is perfect!

Bring sauce to a simmer, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in half of the cheese. Season to taste with pepper and hot sauce.

Spread a third of the pasta over the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with half of the reserved cheese and a third of the sauce. Repeat: a third of the pasta, remaining cheese, and a third of the sauce. Repeat: remaining pasta, remaining sauce. Top with parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.

Notes:

  • Tent pasta with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes if top is browning too much.
  • This recipe can be prepared in advanced, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking. Just bring to room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking, or place pan in a cold oven and let oven heat up with the dish. From the refrigerator, you’ll have to bake it at least 40-45 minutes to heat through but use your best judgment.
  • Leftovers freeze well.

Linked up with Weekend Potluck.

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Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

A creamy, veggie-filled pasta dish that comes together quickly with lots of pantry ingredients.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta | thepajamachef.comDoes anyone else watch Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network? Ever since we moved to Nashville and got a DVR [yes, I know these have been around forever but we didn’t get one til a year ago. We are way behind technology-wise.] I have been obsessed with recording episodes of cooking and HGTV shows. Because I can, and because they’re good tv shows to watch while blogging or reading magazines or something. I never watch and only watch tv. I need to be doing something else in the process, so I need somewhat mindless shows that aren’t totally trashy. Does that make sense? This one, if you haven’t seen it, requires chefs to dash around a grocery store in search of ingredients for an assigned meal/category of food, and then COOK their meal… but there’s always a twist or challenge. I never in a million years would want to be on Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, or any of those other cooking shows… but if I had to choose a cooking competition show to be on, this would be it. It’s relatively tame, Guy seems nice, and hello! Grocery stores are my favorite place to browse. Is that weird? Ha. Anyways, on a recent episode of triple G, one of the judges said that pasta dishes aren’t supposed to be light. She thought they needed to be heavy, or at least, hearty to be a true pasta dish. I have to say I disagree with that. There’s a place for heavy, hearty dishes like baked pasta or lasagna [take a look in my archives, I have tons of recipes like that!] but sometimes lighter pasta dishes totally hit the spot. Maybe they aren’t traditional but I love ‘em.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta | thepajamachef.comThis pasta dish is exactly the kind I love–full of flavor and interesting things, but still relatively light. It uses cream cheese and Parmesan cheese but also a lot of tomatoes, onions, and spinach to balance everything out. You can make this pasta in a pretty short amount of time, using mostly pantry ingredients, so it’s great for weeknights. The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks, so it really doesn’t take more time to make than  a box of mac ‘n cheese. So what if it’s not this big, hearty meal? Isn’t that what sides are for? :) To make this more of a one dish meal, I think some sliced grilled chicken, shrimp, or even some canned white beans would be great additions. I’ll have to try that next time! Enjoy!

one year ago: Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Sauce
two years ago: Pumpkin Cornbread
three years ago: Honey Whole Wheat English Muffins
four years ago: Pumpkin Pasta Sauce, aka “Pumpfredo”

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
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from Budget Bytes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound small pasta like penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4-5 ounces fresh spinach [frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained should also work too]

Directions:

Prepare pasta [al dente] according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened about 7 minutes. Then add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Add tomatoes [undrained], oregano, basil, red pepper, and black pepper and stir to combine. Add tomato paste and 1/2 cup water to skillet, stirring until tomato paste has dissolved. Reduce heat to low and add cream cheese cubes one by one, stirring until incorporated. Then add the Parmesan cheese gradually, stirring until it is creamy.

When pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce. Top with spinach, cover, and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes until spinach wilts. Stir in and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately.

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame

Spicy peanut sauce, noodles, kale, and edamame meet in an addictive, easy pseudo-takeout meal that can be enjoyed hot or cold–what’s not to love?!

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame | thepajamachef.com

This spring/summer Ben and I have been eating sesame or peanut noodles all. the. time. [Side note: is there an actual difference between them? I’m sure there is. The librarian part of me is itching to google this up and see what I find out, but I’ll restrain myself.] They have replaced our easy mac & cheese from a box dinners. I have a hard time telling you what recipe I’ve used because a) I have many pinned on Pinterest and b) don’t really measure ingredients for sauces like this because I’ve never taken the time to take a few pictures to share the recipe here! But this time I did. Measure and photograph. :) And this time I didn’t use any recipe except what sounded/looked/tasted good to me. It’s a good thing I did, because my noodles were utterly amazing.

Inspired by the lovely Amy of fearless homemaker and HER spicy peanut & sesame noodles, I added mix-ins to my noodles for the first time ever. What a good choice! Adding some kale and edamame made the textures of everything just pop and look pretty. Dontcha just love all that green?! :)

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame | thepajamachef.com

Ben walked in the door just as I was mixing everything together and was like, “what in the world is that fabulous smell?! You must be the best wife ever for cooking such an incredible dinner.” Okay, maybe his words didn’t come out exactly like that, but the sentiment was there. I know it. But seriously–these noodles DO smell fabulous. The sauce is the perfect balance of spicy, sweet, and fresh flavors. I used ground ginger in the sauce but if I had had fresh ginger… oh man. Use that if you can.

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame | thepajamachef.com

Though I served these noodles as a vegetarian main course, this is a great base recipe to add some meat. I think grilled chicken or thinly sliced steak would be great. Or even shrimp or tofu. This could even be a side dish if you like. We loved every last one of these yummy noodles, and like all good Asian-ish recipes…you can enjoy them hot or cold. They’re great both ways. In the recipe below I included notes about how to prepare them to be more picnic friendly, but no matter how you make them, I’m sure you’ll love ‘em! Enjoy!

one year ago: Ginger Banana Waffles
two years ago: Minty Asian Slaw
three years ago: Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 20min
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Spicy Peanut Noodles with Kale and Edamame | thepajamachef.com

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces thin spaghetti noodles [any sort of thin noodle would work–Asian of any type, linguini, etc.]
  • 3 cups kale, tightly packed & thinly sliced
  • 1 cup Thai basil, loosely packed & chopped
  • 1 cup edamame, shelled & room temperature
  • green onions, sliced, for garnish

for sauce

  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • juice of half a lime [roughly 2 tablespoons]
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger [use 1 inch grated fresh ginger if you have it]
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ~1/2 cup pasta water, to thin sauce

Directions:

Prepare noodles according to package directions. Be sure to reserve about half a cup of pasta’s cooking water to thin the sauce.

While noodles are cooking, whisk together all ingredients for sauce except for the pasta water.

When pasta is ready, drain, and return to pot [or a large bowl]. Add kale, basil, and edamame and toss. Thin dressing with 3 tablespoons of pasta water, whisk, and the pour over noodles and vegetables. Toss well to coat. If necessary, add additional pasta water to thin sauce further, up to a full half cup.

Serve noodles with green onions for garnish.

Note:

Can be enjoyed warm or cold, but the dressing does really absorb into the noodles after refrigeration [which doesn’t bother me but does affect presentation] so if you’re making these noodles for an event and want to serve them cold, be sure to rinse well after draining to get rid of starch, toss with a bit of sesame oil, and then refrigerate separately from the sauce and veggies. Toss together before serving. I haven’t tried this technique with this recipe, but I have done similar things for other dishes so I assume it’d work well! Using rice noodles [that you don’t boil to cook, thus, they stay cold] might be a good option too.

 

BBQ Baked Spaghetti

This baked spaghetti is jazzed up with BBQ sauce, ground beef or turkey, and vegetables. It’s as cheesy and delicious as it sounds!

BBQ Baked Spaghetti | thepajamachef.com

Ben and I are HUGE baked pasta people. If we ate baked pasta as much as we wanted to, we would probably be huge. Haha! :) Anyways… this BBQ Baked Spaghetti is awesome and I wish I had some to enjoy right now!

BBQ Baked Spaghetti | thepajamachef.com

I got the recipe from one of the first food blogs I ever started reading–Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures. Everything I make from her blog is just delicious, family friendly, and wonderful. This baked pasta dish is no exception. It’s cheesy pasta goodness that no one can resist, even though BBQ and spaghetti may not be the first food combination that you would think of when brainstorming for dinner. It’s a unique dinner that you’ll want to make again and again.

BBQ Baked Spaghetti | thepajamachef.com

Like I do with a lot of baked pasta dishes, I made this dinner a day or so before I wanted to eat it. If you cover it and stick it in the fridge, it’s an easy homemade convenience dinner for later in the week! This pasta dish kind of reminded me of the ubiquitous BBQ burgers I see all over Nashville–except a more carblicious rendering of that.

BBQ Baked Spaghetti | thepajamachef.com

If you like baked spaghetti and you like BBQ, you’ll love this dinner! Enjoy!

one year ago: Honey Lemon Thyme Iced Tea
two years ago: Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes
three years ago: Spiced Waffles

BBQ Baked Spaghetti

  • Servings: 10
  • Time: 60mins
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from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
BBQ Baked Spaghetti | thepajamachef.com
Ingredients:

  • 1 pound spaghetti noodles
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups bbq sauce [I like Sweet Baby Ray’s]
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and then cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Meanwhile, brown ground beef or turkey in a large skillet set over medium heat. While meat is browning, add green pepper and onion. Cook until tender, then drain grease if necessary. Return pan to heat and add garlic powder, bbq sauce, and tomato sauce. Cook over medium heat until hot.

Combine spaghetti with sauce mixture. Stir in half the cheese, then spread into prepared pan. Top with remaining cheese and bake for 30 minutes until hot and cheese is bubbly.

 

Sweet Potato Chorizo Chile Mac

I’ve been making this Sweet Potato Chorizo Chile Mac for well over a year now since Joanne posted it, and have no idea why I haven’t blogged about it yet. It is AMAZING! It’s no secret that I like baked pasta, cheese, and Southwestern/Mexican food, and this dish fits the bill for all three of those categories. Saaaweeeet!

Sweet Potato Chorizo Chile Mac | thepajamachef.com

Or more accurately, sweet ‘n spicy. This version of chile mac features a hearty sweet potato sauce, some spicy chorizo sausage, and just enough cheese to be yummy but not too indulgent/unhealthy. I mean, I love a super cheesy dish as much as the next girl, but there are other flavors I like too… and this dish brings it! If you have all the ingredients at your disposal and are currently snowed/iced/frozen in, then I highly suggest you make this today! If not, then by the end of the week, stat!

Sweet Potato Chorizo Chile Mac | thepajamachef.com

I’ve been trying to figure out what my favorite part of the dish is, and the sad answer is… I don’t know! The spicy meat pairs so well with the smooth sweet potato sauce that neither is overwhelming. Ben isn’t a huge sweet potato guy but this is one dish he really can get into. For the most part, I followed Joanne’s original recipe, but of course I had to add my own little twist, my own little departure from regular ‘ole chili mac… and that is to toss everything in the oven for just a bit, to create some crunchy noodles and a nice layer of melted cheese. By jove, I’ve got it! The crunchy noodles are my favorite part. Crunchy, cheesy, spicy, sweet potato covered noodles, that is! Enjoy! :)

Sweet Potato Chorizo Chile Mac | thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Chicken Tinga Tacos
two years ago: Crock Pot Cran-Apple Sauce
three years ago: Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Sweet Potato Chorizo Chile Mac [from Joanne via Marcus Samuelsson]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes [approximately 2 pounds]
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-6 ounces shredded cheese [sharp Cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack], divided
  • 8 ounces small whole wheat pasta [shells or macaroni]
  • 8 ounces chorizo
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided
  • sour cream, for serving

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Scrub sweet potatoes and pierce all over with a fork. Place in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through.

While sweet potatoes cook, prepare pasta according to package directions.

When cooked sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and place in a large bowl. Add milk, chipotle chiles, and a generous amount of pepper. Mash and stir in half of the cheese, then add pasta to sweet potato mixture.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat, then add chorizo and cook 4-5 minutes until brown, stirring to crumble. Add to bowl with sweet potatoes and pasta. Stir together along with half of the green onions and cilantro, then transfer to prepared baking dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Top with green onions and cilantro and serve with sour cream [if desired].

Time: 40 minutes.

Yield: 10 servings.