In my ongoing quest to find tasty kid-friendly meals for you that are healthy and appropriate for the whole family, this week I tried a different take on traditional macaroni and cheese in my test kitchen. I found the recipe in "Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: Recipes inspired by Dr. Seuss!," by Georgeanne Brennan (Random House; $16.95).
THE DISH: Cat's Mac and Cheese
(Makes 4 servings)
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 ounces extra-large penne, rigatoni or shell pasta
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, shallots, parsley, egg yolk and Parmesan cheese, half of the salt and half of the black pepper. Mix until smooth, about two minutes.
2. Cook the pasta as directed. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle.
3. Cut off a corner of a sealable plastic bag and fill it half full with the stuffing. Insert the cut off tip into each piece of pasta and squeeze, repeating until all the pasta is filled. (You can use a spoon and your fingers instead.)
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
5. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. When it foams, remove it from the heat and add the flour slowly, whisking to make a roux, or paste.
6. Return the pan to the heat and whisk in the milk, slowly.
7. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and the taste of the flour has gone, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining salt and pepper.
8. Into an 8x8-inch casserole or baking dish (about 3 inches deep), ladle enough sauce just to cover the bottom. Spread out one-third of the stuffed pasta, then pour one-third of the sauce over it. Repeat twice with the remaining pasta and sauce.
9. In a small frying pan over medium heat, melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter and add the bread crumbs, stirring until the bread crumbs are toasted, about 2 minutes. Put them on top of the pasta.
10. Put in the oven and bake until lightly golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
MY TAKE: I used the large shell pasta and it was easy to stuff. I also adjusted some of the ingredients and used part-skim ricotta cheese and skim milk and I served it with a side of mixed veggies. Since there is a lot of prep work involved, I'd save this for a weekend or evening when you have more time to cook.
KID TESTED: It was a little on the heavier side so Maggie only ate about three of the stuffed shells. We had a lot left over so we were able to squeeze two meals out of the recipe.
Text copyright © 2006 by Georgeanne Brennan (excluding Dr. Seuss excerpts)
Photographs copyright © 2006 by Frankie Frankeny (excluding Dr. Seuss images)
All rights reserved.