Pasta is often my go-to genre when there are many hungry bellies to feed and when I hope to satisfy vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. It also works well for both children and adults. Recently I've been saved by two particular shapes of pasta. On Christmas Day I was saved by the bell-shaped pasta Campanelle, which I made with Mark Bittman's Chestnut Cream. The sauce was super simple, could be made in advance, and was hearty enough to satisfy any appetite. As a nice plus, it could also be easily adapted to a vegan diet by substituting a non-dairy milk. The Campanelle shape held the sauce well and prettied up an otherwise mono-color dish.
On another occasion I was saved by the corkscrew-shaped pasta Cavatappi, which I think is the perfect choice for multi-generational mac 'n' cheese. When it's smothered in cheese sauce it has the look of elbow macaroni for the kids, with a little sophistication for the adults.
When I volunteer to take a main dish to a party at my toddler's preschool I most often turn to the quick and foolproof quesadilla, which can also be dressed up to suit a variety of tastes. But for my toddler's recent holiday party I branched out and made a super-simple and super-sized batch of Cavatappi macaroni 'n' cheese. This recipe also lends itself to adaptation, since you could easily substitute a stronger cheese to make it more over-the-top. (Goat cheese? I've tried it, it's great. Blue cheese? That'll be next!)
Recipes below. . .
Mark Bittman's Chestnut Cream available here on page 457.
Macaroni 'n' Cheese for a Crowd
Serves 12-15 adult main course portions
- 1 1/2 lbs pasta
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 6 tbsp. flour
- 2 tsp. dry mustard
- 3 cups milk
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 4 cups shredded cheese (I used 3 c. sharp cheddar and 1 c. medium cheddar)
- salt and pepper