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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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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Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Oh so you have been bragging to all your friends have you? You have proclaimed yourself the pumpkin master and informed everyone that you can make pumpkin anything. Well your friends have decided to put you to the test by telling you to host a pumpkin dinner party. Each dish has to have pumpkin in it, in some way, shape or form. Now you are up a creek without a paddle, and you are afraid your boat will hit an iceberg along the way. Causing you to sink in front of all your friends. Having them all stare in awe and shock with their mouths’ agape. Sure it is one thing to tell everyone you are a pumpkin genius, but it is a whole other league to actually be one. First of all, you need to find new friends. If they are inviting themselves to your house and ordering you to cook for them, and you are agreeing to do it all the time, well then you have bigger problems on your hand than a little pumpkin dinner. How would they like it if you invited yourself over their house and demanded they cook? Granted, you should not have been bragging in the first place. You have no one to blame but yourself.

So now the big day has come and you are freaking out. You have realized that perhaps you are not so savvy with that orange squash, as you thought or as you led them to believe. Sure you have dessert covered. Who does not know a thing or two about pumpkin desserts? That is a walk in the park. It is the easiest route to take. The easiest way to transform that gourd. Let us turn our attention to the main course, however. The biggest part of the dinner. You are worried that you cannot make a delicious savory dish with the star ingredient are you not? And you should be. You have every right to be nervous. I would be if I were in your shoes. I am not going to lie to you, it is very difficult to get people to like pumpkin in savory dishes because everyone goes into it with the misconception that it will taste like dessert. Stop crying and shaking your head! You have nothing to worry about. I am here to help you. Lucky for you I am a pumpkin master. Together we will get through this. Together we will conquer. Now buck up. Shoulders high. Raise that chin, proud like you know what you are doing. You have to have confidence. Put on your apron. Grab a spoon and a whisk. Cross your arms. Turn and look at your reflection on the oven. You are a master. Okay that is enough, you have a dinner party to throw. What are you doing just standing there looking like a fool with your arms crossed holding a whisk and spoon?!?! You need to start working! You are behind!

The best way to make people like anything, I have found, is to drench it in butter and cheese and cover it in a creamy sauce. Throw in some pasta and your are golden. Stop giving me that look of confusion. It is simple really. You are going to make Pumpkin Mac and Cheese. It has everything that most people enjoy. Tie it in with some autumn flavors and you are good to go. What do sage and thyme and pumpkin scream out to you? Yes that is right, Thanksgiving. It spells out Thanksgiving. So it does not really spell out Thanksgiving, but you get the point. You are going to wow your friends with this dish.

You have put together the sauce—which is now a beautiful light orange color thanks to the pumpkin—and are now mixing in the pasta. Stop eating it. This is for your pushy self-inviting friends. Throw the mac and cheese into the ramekins, hurry. Sprinkle on the sage breadcrumbs. Stand back. Look at that. Admire the pumpkin mac and cheese. Does it not look delicious like I had promised? Does it not smell fantastic? Okay, what are you doing? Enough standing around. Pop the tray in the oven. These have to bake. Your friends are due at any minute! Look at yourself! You are a mess! There is flour on your face. Cheese sauce in your hair. Pull yourself together! You cannot let your friends see you like this! Go change!  The door bell rings at the same time that the oven timer goes off. Just in time. Your soon-to-be-ex-friends are finally here and they enter with a look as if they know they have won. Little do they know you had an ace up your sleeve. Let the party begin.

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