Time for January's Improv Cooking Challenge!
The theme for this month was Cheese and Crackers. I had all kinds of ideas for this challenge, but I ultimately fell back on ol' reliable mac and cheese. I absolutely love making different types of mac and cheese, but I usually go with a stove top version. In the spirit of the challenge (and Ron's request), I made a baked version with crackers that is so sinful and delicious. I added sliced bratwurst to the dish because we had a bunch left from Kellen's tailgating party and we are Wisconsinites and love brats in almost anything. I used sharp cheddar and monterey jack cheese, but you could use whatever kind you like. If you do not want to use brats you could easily make it without or sub in a different favorite protein.
Ron and I both love this recipe and I think, dare I say, it is Ron's favorite variation. Kellen loved this meal...especially the brats.
1 lb elbow noodles
4 cooked bratwurst (I recommend grilling or pan frying), sliced
4 Tbl butter
4 Tbl flour
2 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
1/2 stick butter melted
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside.
In a large pot or dutch oven, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Whisk for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Adjust heat if needed to avoid burning.
Slowly whisk in the milk and allow the sauce to thicken for 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
Once sauce has thickened add 1 cup jack cheese and 1 cup cheddar (reserving 1/2 cup). Whisk till all cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper.
Gently stir in the noodles and sliced bratwurst. Pour pasta into a prepared 9x13 baking dish (I use cooking spray). In a large sealable bag mix crackers and butter till evenly coated. Top pasta with reserve cheese and spread crackers evenly over the pasta. Bake 30 minutes uncovered.