SERVES 6 | ACTIVE TIME 5 Min | TOTAL TIME 15 Min
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk (2% is good too)
1 pound dry mini penne pasta
8 ounces of Italian blend shredded cheese (*see below to make your own blend)
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning (I prefer McCormick Tuscan Style Italian Seasoning)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, cook pasta according to package directions, to al dente. Drain pasta once it is cooked and set aside. Work on the next step while your pasta is cooking.
Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat melt butter, add flour and Italian seasoning and whisk for about 2 minutes to cook out the ‘flour-y’ taste. Add milk and continue to whisk occasionally, allowing the mixture to thicken. Add cheeses and whisk until fully combined.
Pour cheese sauce over strained pasta and stir to combine. Sauce will thickens as it sits. Serve and enjoy!
DONNA’S NOTES: I do not use pre-shredded cheese as much as I used to. Now I use 4 ounces mozzarella and 4 ounces provolone (or 8 ounces mozzarella). I shred them and add them to the recipe in place of the cheese blend. From time-to-time I will add a little Romano, Asiago or Fontina into the mix. It depends on what I have in the house. But the essential part is to use at least 4 ounces of mozzarella in your blend.
Veggie ideas: When there is about 5-6 minutes left on your pasta cook time add 2 cups frozen peas or frozen broccoli (cover the pot to help it come back to a boil more quickly and remove the cover once boiling again). They will be done the same time the pasta is done and it will combine to make an incredible dinner. Another vegetable option is to stir in 3 cups fresh baby spinach, once the pasta and cheese sauce have been fully combined (at the end). It will be just wilted perfectly when it is time to serve.
Protein ideas: After you have drained your cooked pasta, add it back to the pan and add chopped left over turkey, chicken or rotisserie chicken to the hot pasta. Then pour the sauce over top. The heat from the pasta and the cheese sauce will warm the meat through and it will be ready to serve when the mac and cheese is ready. I have also used left over ground beef, burgers, rinsed and drained beans (navy, kidney or pinto are our favorites).
The possibilities are endless.