When the kids need something warm, filling and deliciously satisfying, nothing beats good old Mac & Cheese. Our Monday Special Macaroni Cheese uses tortellini instead of traditional macaroni; the result is the ultimate in comfort food – perfect as the chilly Autumn nights draw in.
Mondays are something of a juggling act in our house dinner-wise. There’s swimming practise straight after school for one, and football training an hour later for the other. One needs a meal that will see him through training without sitting heavily in his stomach. The other needs a big plate of something hot and comforting when she gets home, to replenish energy levels and bring her safely back from the brink of Tired-and-Tearful-Land. Then there are of course the ever-patient taxi drivers – we need feeding too!
This Monday Special Mac & Cheese fits the bill perfectly. Technically, you can’t really call this Macaroni Cheese – there’s not one piece of macaroni in sight. But I’m not going to let that stop me.
Instead I’ve used the shop-bought pre-made tortellini (that’s the “special” bit). The advantage is you can vary the taste depending on which filling you use. In the photo above I used a Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil tortellini, but the first time I made this, I used Cheese and Ham which was a big success. The combination of melted cheese and tasty ham is spot on. My daughter loved it.
This recipe also marks a watershed moment in my kitchen – I decided to experiment and make my own cheese sauce. It’s remarkably easy (if I can do it anyone can) and a lot cheaper than buying it. Ready-made cheese sauce at my local supermarket costs around £2 a tub and I don’t think I’ve ever used the whole tub. Making it yourself on the other hand costs pennies.
I used 100g of cheese for this recipe – but you can vary that to taste. The secret is to make sure the cheese is completely melted before you put it on the pasta just so that it’s mixed in well.
Top this with butter, breadcrumbs and some extra cheese (why not?) and it’s like a big warm hug in a bowl. No surprises it got 10 out of 10 from the kids!
Makes enough for 4 medium-sized servings.
- 1 packet of ready-made fresh tortellini (ravioli will also work)
- 25g butter
- 25g flour
- 600ml milk
- salt and pepper
- 80 - 100g cheddar
- Butter cut into small pieces
- A handful of breadcrumbs
- A handful of cheese
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the back of the packet (usually 3 minutes in a pan of boiling water).
- Once cooked, transfer your pasta to a medium-sized ovenproof dish and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat.
- Stir in the flour until well mixed and cook for a further 1 or two minutes.
- Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk to make a smooth paste.
- Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, and then simmer on a low heat for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the cheese and allow to melt.
- Do not reboil - the cheese will become stringy and tough.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.
- Bake in the oven for around 15 - 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, pat the top with small knobs of butter, cover with the breadcrumbs and cheese.
- Return to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes.
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