Stove Top Ratatouille Mac and Cheese

It’s National Mac and Cheese Day today (Tuesday July 14th) and I’m celebrating this momentous occasion the only way I know how, by making a giant pot of the creamiest macaroni and cheese you ever did see. If that isn’t the perfect way to celebrate this beautiful holiday, then I don’t know what is. I couldn’t just give you some boring every day pasta recipe in a cheese sauce though, what kind of person would I be if I did? Don’t answer that. Nothing makes me happier than when two classic recipes come together in a delicious food explosion to make one unbelievable dish. It’s fun and exciting. Such is the case this time around because I’ve gone ahead and thrown ratatouille and mac and cheese together into the same pot. Blasphemous? I’m sure, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and I don’t think you should either.

I’ve teamed up with Wisconsin Cheese, once again, to bring you yet another out of this world macaroni and cheese recipe for their All Things Mac and Cheese site. If you’ll recall, earlier in the year, I made an Irish Colcannon Mac and Cheese that taught us a very valuable lesson; cabbage, potatoes and bacon in mac and cheese is always a good idea. Much like with that post, you’ll notice that the recipe won’t be included at the bottom of this page, like it normally is. You’ll have to click on over to their site to get the full recipe! I’m evil, I know, but it’s worth it! (I just want to keep you guys on your toes and make sure you’re paying attention). I’ll include a link at the bottom of the post so you can easily find the recipe and make it at home in honor of your new favorite holiday. Of course, you don’t only have to make it on this day. Do yourself a favor and be sure to make it all summer long because it’s everything you never knew you wanted. You owe it to yourself.

I’ve made and eaten ratatouille only a handful of times here and there, so I’m no expert in the matter. But I am an expert in cheesy sauces tossed around with noodles. I’m a pro at that. I wanted this recipe to be easy enough to whip up in a hurry, but still have all of the sophisticated flavors and tastes that the classic French dish has. It’s the best of both worlds, comfort food meets healthy. Quick side not though, am I the only one that thinks of a rat cooking in Paris, whenever ratatouille is mentioned? I blame Pixar and Disney for that. Although a tiny blue rat in a chef’s apron didn’t make this dish, I can guarantee you that it’ll still knock your socks off. Just blow them clear off your feet. That’s the power of mac and cheese and that’s why it has it’s own national holiday. That’s all I’m saying. 

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Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage Pasta

I cook a lot because of what I do for a living, but I don’t have to tell you that, I’m sure you already knew this. If you looked in my fridge right now you would see an obscene amount of food. It’s packed with food storage containers filled with various dishes, ranging from appetizers to salads to entrées from the week’s work. Sometimes it’s crazy how much of it there is in my house at any given moment, but crazier is the fact that we can’t always seem to eat it fast enough. We’ll have friends or family over often, and basically force food down their throats and even then we’ll find ourselves eating a certain dish for several days in a row. It’s a good thing I happen to really love leftovers. It’s not a good thing that Julian is meh about leftovers. 

Because I spend so much time in the kitchen on a daily basis, there are times every now and then where the last thing I want to do is get in the kitchen, yet again, and make dinner. Sure, on more than a few occasions what I make and shoot ends up becoming dinner, but as much as I would love for Chunky Monkey Sticky Buns and Strawberry Pistachio Cupcakes to be a hearty supper, it doesn’t always work out that way. Unfortunately my doctor says I need a well rounded meal with protein and vegetables. The nerve! On those days, I find myself making the easiest of dishes. We’ll have tacos (my go-to option) or tuna sandwiches (against Julian’s wishes) for dinner because it’s the quickest thing I can whip up without going crazy because I’ve just spent the entire day in the kitchen. Julian will cook a few nights out of the week which totally makes me happy, and I’ll just spend the night on the couch drinking a cocktail and bask in the pampered life.

We’ve recently made a valiant effort to have a date night at least once a week (every Thursday) where we go out and enjoy a meal somewhere we’ve never eaten before. It gives us a chance to try one of the many restaurants in our neighborhood. I do have to admit though, at times, mainly due to me falling in love with a particular place, we’ll go back to the same restaurant a few weeks in a row. On one of these evenings we tried a cauliflower dish that was out of this world. It was battered and fried and served with a garlic aioli and I couldn’t get enough. Easily one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten outside of my house. Ever since then, cauliflower and I have become the greatest of friends. We’re kind of, sort of inseparable. I’ve now added this Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage Pasta to the rotation when I don’t really feel like cooking because it’s so easy to make. I can shut off my mind and bring it together in no time at all. Although it’s simple with only a handful of ingredients, it’s one of the tastiest pastas you’ll ever try. Cross my heart and kiss my elbow. 

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Idaho Potato Spanish Mac and Cheese

I’m the biggest fan of mixing my starches and carbs together to create one satisfyingly delicious dish. If you ask me, potatoes, cheese and pasta are meant to be together forever. Maybe that’s because I don’t think of potatoes as a starch or a carb, that’s crazy, especially when we all know it’s a vegetable. So therefore it’s perfectly acceptable to have potatoes with a side of rice or pasta or bread, or perhaps even all three of them at the same time in the same meal. Have I totally lost my mind? Sure, but at least it’s for something as delicious as carbs on carbs on carbs. I’m no stranger to this logical way of eating, either. Ask my mamma about how when I was a little boy I’d only want to eat rice and potatoes all day long. It was one of my favorite things to have for dinner. White rice with a side of “any kind of potatoes” you can imagine. I wasn’t picky. Although there was this one dish in particular she would make for me where she’d boil whole potatoes, drain them and allow them to cool down. She’d then peel the potatoes, cut them in half (length wise) and then quickly pan fry them until crispy on both sides and while they were still hot she’d sprinkle salt on top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Might sound like something so ordinary but let me tell you, they were out of this world….especially on top of some white rice. I did warn you, I was a weird kid. 

I’ve teamed up with Idaho Potato to bring you a few new and exciting recipes this month, and if you’ve been tagging along with me for the ride then you’ll know this is the fourth recipe in this partnership made in heaven. We’ve come to the end of the month and for this last recipe I decided to go comfort food all the way home with one of my favorites, mac and cheese! Idaho Potato Spanish Mac and Cheese just made so much sense to me, you know? A manchego cheese sauce mixed with pasta, green olives, caramelized onions and peppers, crispy Spanish chorizo and of course lots of shredded potatoes. It’s all of the ingredients I love in Spanish cuisine rolled into one deliciously American classic. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve added potatoes to a mac and cheese recipe, though, and you know what, I’m sure it won’t be the last. The first time I made magic happen was with this Irish Colcannon Mac and Cheese last week. First it was Ireland and now Spain, I guess I should just jump on the theme I’ve created here, and start a new series called “Mac and Cheese From Around The World!” Or something like that. I’ll have to work on the name a bit more. You’d be surprised how far I can take this. The ideas are already spinning around in my mind. In the meantime though, let’s take a trip to Spain together. I think you should add mac and cheese to your upcoming weekly meal plan. Don’t let me convince you though, let the recipe speak for itself! 

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Irish Colcannon Mac and Cheese

I recently partnered up with Wisconsin Cheese to celebrate National Cheese Lover’s Day. This might come as a shock to many of you, but I Jonathan Melendez, am a cheese lover. There I said it. I’m a cheese lover from way back, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I have to be honest though, I actually had no idea a day celebrating people like me existed. Cheese lovers. Finally there’s a holiday where my non-stop eating of cheese all day long is perfectly acceptable. That’s cheese for breakfast, cheese for lunch, cheese for a snack and cheese for dinner. All the cheese you could ever possibly dream of. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate such a momentous occasion than with a big heaping serving of macaroni and cheese. Maybe even two servings. What? It’s my holiday, I’ll party if I want to. It’s the mother of all cheese recipes, but this isn’t just any ol’ mac and cheese recipe. This one here is a fancy mac and cheese recipe. I couldn’t do a simple everyday take on it. Where’s the fun in that? 

I’m going to warn you right off the bat, because I believe in full disclosure…sometimes, this is actually going to be somewhat of a shortened post. I’ll share a few photos and funny anecdotes (obviously) like always, but for the recipe itself you’ll have to visit the site it’ll live on All Things Mac and Cheese! Just like the name states, it’s mac and cheese everything and anything. You’d be surprised what you’ll find on there. Sure, I could go on and on and tell you all about it, but I figured it would be a lot easier for you to just go and check it out yourself. Plus, I’m too lazy to type anymore than I already have to. The most important thing though is that my Irish Colcannon Mac and Cheese recipe is on it, so there’s definitely something to search for. 

Listen to me going on and on about mac and cheese when we should all be out there celebrating National Cheese Lover’s Day. What are you waiting for? There’s so much cheese to eat and so much mac and cheese to make. If you start now, you might (just might) be able to catch up to me. I can’t make any promises that I won’t beat you. It is my holiday after all. 

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Salmon, Mint and Pea Pasta

I know that 99.9% of the time I’m posting decadent recipes on here, packed with butter, sugar, chocolate, caramel, cheese and cream. And that was all just a couple days ago with that Chocolate Butterscotch Hazelnut Cake! I don’t get tired of posting these tempting recipes because A) they make us all happy and B) it’s not like I’m telling people to eat them every single day of their lives. Every other day…sure. I think it’s totally fine to have some fun once in a while and when you want to have said fun, you can stop by this site and let loose. I’ll still be here tempting you. Let’s live a little. There are so many people out there already that take themselves too seriously when it comes to food, so we definitely don’t need one more person posting diet recipes and telling you what you should or shouldn’t be eating. Sure, I don’t always post a healthy recipe on the site, but hey when I do, it makes them that much more special. That 00.1% of the time a healthy recipe does make an appearance, it’s refreshing because it occurs so infrequently. 

Although I’ve turned to the dark side and sold my soul to a healthy recipe this time around—it has peas and salmon in it, which is packed with good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids by the way and it’s as healthy as I’m going to get so enjoy it—I didn’t forget my sinful roots completely. I tossed in some pasta because I couldn’t help myself. I don’t think I could ever just go cold turkey on the entire comfort food situation. And let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be much fun if I did. With the New Year though, I figured it was time to explore some healthier options and do some good in the world by sharing a delicious healthy recipe. Can you blame me? It’s my good deed for the year. 

I’ve partnered up with Nikon USA to bring you this healthy recipe and also to talk about the New Year and all of the possibilities that come with it! I feel like 2015 is going to be a MEGA great year for all of us. Let’s look forward and do the very best we can, even if the very best means failing a couple times along the way until we succeed. No one is keeping tabs on how many times we slip, but they are taking note of all the good we’re doing. In the end, that’s all that really matters. 2015 is your year. Shine bright like a diamond (sorry Rihanna). It’s okay to make healthier choices and to want to change certain aspects of your life through resolutions and what not, but don’t let it dictate your life. There’s still plenty of doughnuts, cake, cookies, and potatoes to devour, but first, we have to eat all of this healthy Salmon, Mint and Pea Pasta (it’s actually ridiculously delicious).  

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Paella Pasta Salad

I’ve always wanted to make a paella for the site. It’s something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while now. I’m a sucker for rice, in any shape or form. In any recipe, really. My motto is, the more rice the better. Serve it to me every single day for the rest of my life and I’ll be happy as a clam (pun intended). I began brainstorming recipe ideas this past week and for some reason paella kept popping up in my head. Perhaps it was a sign pointing me to make paella, because the time had come for me to finally make this recipe happen. It could’ve been a sign, but really if I’m being honest, it was my stomach doing all of the thinking because I really just wanted an excuse to eat paella this week. Go figure. Anyhow, there I was brainstorming when it hits me, “Jonathan! You should make a paella but create it with a twist because there are a million paella recipes already out there!” Just like that, that’s how it happened. Word for word, and I know what you’re thinking, yes I do talk to myself in first person. It’s what I do. 

Aside from talking to myself, I’d also like to point out the fact that it’s currently the third of November. The THIRD of NOVEMBER people!!! Where did the end of October go? This whole time change thing over the weekend has got me all sorts of confused. Sure it’s just one hour of a difference, but still, my mind is taking a bit longer to adjust. I don’t know what is what anymore. The only thing I am sure of is the fact that it’s finally getting chilly here in Los Angeles and all that means is that I get to eat more comfort foods that warm me up inside. Pasta is my favorite comfort food of all. Especially hot pasta baked with lots of cheese. Yes, I’m referring to mac and cheese. Why didn’t you just say that Jonathan?!!? What can I say, I like to be cryptic sometimes. 

Okay so this paella pasta salad isn’t served hot and yes I know there’s no cheese involved, so what’s so comforting about it? It’s no mac and cheese, that’s for sure. Well, it is a pasta dish loaded with all of the meats and all of the seafoods. What’s not comforting about that?!?! You tell me! What isn’t comforting about that, huh? Huh? Well? What have you got to say for yourself? This recipe is comforting because it’s pasta mixed with sausage, ham, chicken, shrimp, mussels and clams! It’s so filling that it should be illegal, but not really because I’d really like to eat this until the end of time, and I think you should too. 

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