Mac’ n Cheese for the Tween years
The Hotline rang. A request had come in.
A youth group needed a killer Macaroni and Cheese dish for 12 youths.
12 youths and I had 3 hours.
I was concerned. Even though it was not a Dinner Impossible episode, I was up against a picky tween palate. What is a tween? A youth who wants to be a teenager but is still a child. A youngster that no longer desires mountains of Kraft Mac N Cheese but would also turn their nose up to Mac featuring goat cheese with roasted red peppers.
I needed the real deal; rich, filling and delicious with some protein hiding in the background for those fast growing bodies.
Here is what I came up with.
Tween Mac’ n Cheese
First lets get the water boiling with added kosher salt and olive oil.
Dump the pasta in, a smaller ziti was my choice. But work with what you know your tween may like.
Now turn your attention to the liquids. In a saucepan add your milk and butter. Now don’t walk away to jump on Facebook or Twitter, scalded (burnt) milk can happen quickly if you are not watching and the heat is too high.
Take some sage and mince it up
quite small, like this.
Next, dump the minced sage into the pot and let the magic happen.
Using medium-low heat, bring the milk/butter and sage to a simmer. When bubbles appear along the sides, turn off the heat and let stand.
Time for the Cheese. Combine the Mascarpone and Parmesan.
(Use the good stuff, not the sawdust from a green cylinder found in the dried good section of your market)
Then slowly add the milk/butter/sage sauce to the cheese.
Mix until smooth, I used a spatula to begin then switched to a large whisk.
On to the protein, grilled chicken. It you are in a hurry pick up a roasted chicken at the market or prepared chicken strips from Trader Joes.
Cut the chicken strips pretty small. I wanted the chicken to hide in the pasta, not over power it.
Cook the pasta in boiling water to the point where you would still think it needed another minute or two to become tender. The pasta will still need to go in the oven – it will finish cooking there. Dump the pasta into a colander, rinse with cold water to quickly stop the cooking and let the pasta drain to rid itself of excess water.
Next, add the pasta to the cheese mixture
now time for the chicken to join the party
looks and smells terrific.
add some cooking spray or butter, whichever is your preference for non-stick insurance.
This recipe would fit in a 9”x13” pan. This pasta had to be transported to the youth group so I used these restaurant food storage pans.
tis good, very good.
now cover and bake
for 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
when it comes out add a sprinkling of Parmesan
Then serve it warm.
and watch the tweens smile in delight.
2 1/2 cups low fat milk
1 tablespoon minced sage
1 pound small ziti pasta or the likes
1/2 stick of unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
1 1/2 cups Mascarpone cheese
1/2 grated parmesan cheese
1 – 2 cups diced grilled chicken
The How to:
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil with salt and olive oil.
Heat the milk and butter in a sauce pan along with the minced sage over a medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer and when bubbles appear along the sides, turn off the hear and let stand.
Cook the pasta in the boiling water to the point where you would still think it needed another minute or two to become tender. (It still needs to go in the oven – the pasta will finish cooking here) Drain it, rinse with cold water to quickly stop the cooking.
Place the mascarpone and parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
Pour the milk/butter/sage sauce over the cheeses and whisks to combine.
Add the pasta and stir until combined, then add the diced chicken to complete the incorporation of ingredients.
In a greased 9×13 inch or like sized baking dish pour in the pasta mixture.
You can make the dish to this point, cover, and refrigerate for up to a day; return to room temperature before proceeding.)
Cover and bake until bubbling 15 minutes .
Remove from the oven and liberally add more grated parmesan.
Grab a fork and enjoy.