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This is one of those recipes that’s nearly infinitely maleable.  I’m going to post the recipe as it actually appears in my files, and then at the end I’ll tell you how I normally change it.

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • fresh black pepper


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta to al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps.
  3. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika.  Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
  4. Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the pasta into the mix and pour into a 2-quart cassarole dish.  Top with remaining cheese.
  5. Melt the butter and toss with bread crumbs to coat.  Top the mixture withthe bread crumbs.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.


First off, use whatever pasta you like. I do tend to use macaroni, but I’ve used baby shell pasta to great effect, too.

Secondly, a half teaspoon of paprika?  Seriously?  Pfft.  I put in a lot.  I love paprika.

Thirdly, 12 oz. of cheese is aproximately 340 grams.  I find using aprox. 120 g of goat cheese and 250 g of double-smoked cheddar to go in the mix itself makes it really creamy and really tasty.  To top, I use either shredded mozzerella or sometimes (when I’m feeling lazy) some Kraft shredded cheese mix.

Forthly, I add in a lot of stuff.  I take 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cube them to bite-size chunks, then cook them in a fry pan until cooked through.  Or you can bbq the whole breasts and chop them up after.  I add them in just before I add the pasta. 

I also add in about a cup of frozen peas.  You can really add in anything you like: I like the chicken and peas combination, but you can add diced ham and mushrooms, maybe, or mushrooms and maybe some red peppers for a vegetarian version, or whatever.  Just so long as it’s cooked or will reheat nicely in the oven while it’s baking, it’ll be just fine.

And finally, I also add about a half cup of grated Parmesean cheese and a half cup of chopped parsley to the bread crumb topping.

This can be made ahead a day or two, or even frozen for later use — I don’t put the bread crumb topping on it until just before it goes in the oven, for fear of it getting a bit soggy.  Thaw before baking.  If cooking from room temperature or cooler (if it’s been in the fridge for a day, say), bake for 45 mintues to an hour rather than 30.

Chicken with broccoli and spinach


I made a really good, thrown-together dinner on Saturday, and I decided I should write it down so I can make it on purpose in the future.

2 tablespoons fat (I used half olive oil and half butter)
1 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken or turkey, shredded
1 bunch broccoli
3 small bunches spinach
2 cups artichoke hearts in seasoned oil, drained
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
salt and pepper to taste
1/4-1/2 cup water
half a lemon or equivalent lemon juice
cooked pasta or rice

Heat the fat over medium heat in a large skillet and add onion and garlic, salt and pepper, and a half teaspoon of the herbes. Saute until the onion starts to lose color and/or gets nicely brown. Add the broccoli with the other half teaspoon of herbes and cook until tender. Add the artichoke hearts and cook until heated. Add spinach, cooked chicken and water. Cover, and let steam until the spinach is wilted completely and the chicken is heated through. Serve over rice or pasta, and squeeze lemon over the serving.

Makes 4 servings.

This was *really* good. Don’t leave out the lemon; this dish really needs it.

You could probably substitute tofu for the chicken; if you do that, cube the tofu and marinate it for a bit in the oil drained from the  artichokes.