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Mac and Cheese – Yes, Please!

When I think of comfort food, one of the first things that come to mind is Mac & Cheese. Gooey, warm, and of course, cheesy delicious!

One of my favorite recipes is a 4 Cheese Penne Bake – penne pasta, garlic, and parmesan white sauce – tossed with loads of shredded cheese: cheddar, mozzarella, jack, and parmesan. Cover the whole thing with some fresh, herby breadcrumbs for a nice crunch.

Mac & Cheese is perfect to customize. You can add so many flavorful sauce additions like salsa, roasted garlic, fresh herbs, or switch up the cheese combinations with your favorites.

For a fun customized dinner idea, how about serving a pan of housemade mac & cheese. Set out a variety of toppings for diners to build their own bowl. Think pulled pork, crab or shrimp, BBQ chicken, roasted red peppers, green onions, corn salsa, roasted artichokes, sautéed mushrooms, sausage, green chilies… Nothing is off limits! So get creative and dish up some cheesy goodness! -Kathy

 4 Cheese Penne Bake with Herb Breadcrumbs
Generously serves 6 – 8

Herb Breadcrumbs
3 cups packed, 1-inch French bread chunks
4 Tbsp. butter
pinch salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. dry basil leaves
1/2 tsp. dry thyme leaves

Penne Bake
4 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
4 1/2 Tbsp. flour
4 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grated high-quality Parmesan cheese
1-pound dry penne pasta
2 cups (8 oz. wt.) grated four-cheese blend
2 cups (8 oz. wt.) grated Tillamook medium cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the Herb Breadcrumbs: place the breadcrumb ingredients in a food processor, and pulse processor on and off until the bread becomes chopped into a fine crumb and is well mixed with the other ingredients. Set aside.

To make the Penne Bake: in a large heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir around for about 20 seconds — do not let garlic brown. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.

While stirring vigorously with a whisk, add the milk. Whisk well. Bring to a simmer and whisk occasionally until sauce is thickened, about 3 – 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in salt, pepper, sour cream, and Parmesan cheese, and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook penne pasta per package directions until done. Drain well.

In a very large bowl, mix together the pasta and sauce, then fold in the grated cheeses until well combined. Place mixture into a lightly buttered, 13-inch x 9-inch baking pan.

Sprinkle with Herb Breadcrumbs and bake in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes or until pasta is heated through, sides are slightly bubbling, and the top is golden brown.

Recipe © Kathy Casey Food Studios®

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