When it’s cold and gloomy outside, all I want is comfort food, and these creamy baked shells and cheese fit the bill perfectly! They are super quick to make, using simple ingredients, and so creamy and delicious. I make homemade mac and cheese for my kids at least once a week, but I’m usually too lazy to bake it. This delicious recipe is enough to convince me that baking it is worth the effort, though! I’m in love with the crisp bread crumbs on top, and how gooey and melty the cheese is. I served this to the kiddos as is, but I topped my serving with some rotisserrie chicken tossed with buffalo sauce, and it was amazing that way! No matter how you serve it, this is definitely a dish to make again and again.
Creamy Baked Shells and Cheese
3/4 pound shell pasta
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cups milk (I used 1%), warmed
2 cups grated cheese (I like to use a combination of cheddar and monterey jack)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 400 and prepare a 9 x 9 baking dish by rubbing with butter or spraying with cooking spray, and set aside. Fill a large pot about halfway with water, and shake in some salt. Bring to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until tender. Drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and mix to form a paste. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until golden. Pour the milk in slowly, whisking constantly, to form a sauce. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and add the cheese, salt, and dijon mustard.
Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss to coat with sauce. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the pasta. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.
adapted slightly from The Kitchn