(NewsUSA) - For so many, macaroni and cheese is a hands-down favorite comfort food. A specialty dish that was introduced to America by Thomas Jefferson, it was his cousin Mary Randolph who popularized it in her cookbook "The Virginia Housewife," published in 1824.
Whether you dress it up or down or enjoy it as a side or main dish, macaroni and cheese offers delicious versatility and partners perfectly with many meals. It travels well, too, for tailgating or bring-a-dish parties.
This particular macaroni and cheese recipe uses three cheeses, giving it a rich, creamy texture and fantastic flavor. While curly pasta is pictured here, you can easily substitute elbow. With so many tasty possibilities, don't limit yourself to the variations below.
EASY PEASY CHEESY MACARONI
2 cups (8 ounces) curly or elbow style pasta
1/2 stick butter, divided
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 4-ounce log chevre (a fresh, soft un-ripened goat cheese)
2 cups coarsely shredded Jarlsberg cheese
1 cup cubed American cheese
Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 2-quart round ovenproof casserole dish. Cook pasta one minute less than package directions; transfer to colander, and drain. In same pot over very low heat, melt butter; remove from heat. Measure 2 tablespoons butter and, in small bowl, combine it with breadcrumbs and paprika. Set aside.
Return pot to heat. Whisk in flour and simmer until bubbly (1 minute). Gradually add milk, goat cheese and shredded Jarlsberg. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is creamy and thickens slightly. Return pasta to the pot and toss until coated; mix in diced American cheese. Transfer to prepped casserole dish and sprinkle with buttered breadcrumbs. Bake 30 minutes or until center is bubbly-hot and crumbs are golden. Serves 8-10.
When combining pasta with cheese sauce, fold in:
* 2 cups cooked small shrimp (or one can of tuna, drained) with 1 cup frozen petite peas.
* 2 cups each chopped cooked beef and mushrooms.
* 2 cups each cubed kielbasa or ham and chopped grape tomatoes. Instead of buttered breadcrumb topping, top with crushed, lightly salted tortilla chips.
* 2 cups each chopped cooked chicken and broccoli florets.
* 2 cups cauliflower florets with 1 cup cooked crumbled bacon.