After making Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin recently, I got to thinking about variations for macaroni and cheese. What if I layered the cheese in instead melting the cheese into the white sauce? What else could I add to jazz it up? This is what I came up. Olives might make a good addition but I can’t stand them so I left them out. It’d be easy enough to leave out the sausage for a meat-free version. Use this is inspiration to create your own combination!
- Pasta, 1 pound of your choice. I used rotini but elbows or shells would work well too.
- Mozzarella, 4 to 5 cups, grated
- Sundried Tomatoes
- Fresh Spinach
- Red Bell Pepper
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- Italian Sausage, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
- Butter, 1/2 cup
- Flour, 1/2 cup
- Milk, 4 1/2 cups
- Garlic, 6 or 7 cloves, minced
- Crushed Red Pepper
Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan, just until it starts to bubble. Stir in the garlic, crushed red pepper and a dash of salt. Cook and stir for a few minutes, until the garlic softens.Stir in the flour and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the milk and cook, stirring nearly continously, until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and set it aside.While you’re waiting on the pasta to get to a barely al dente stage and the sausage to finish browning, chop the red pepper. Drain the pasta when it’s done and drain any excess fat from the sausage.
Spread a little sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and add a layer of pasta.Sprinkle with a generous layer of mozzarella and Parmesan.Add spinach, a handful of sundried tomatoes, a handful of red peppers and tear a little basil over the top.Drizzle with more sauce.Add the sausage. I almost forgot it and I’d started with the next pasta layer before I remembered it.Repeat another layer – pasta, cheese, spinach, sundried tomato, red peppers, basil and sauce.I topped it off with a bit more cheese, some sundried tomatoes for color, basil and the last of the sauce. Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. Cover it if the cheese is getting too brown.Let it sit for just a few minutes before serving.