Apple Butter Mac and Cheese

So before you tell me I'm crazy, just bear with me.  In the correct combinations with the correct complimenting ingredients, apple butter and mac and cheese really do go together.  I promise.

Since π day, I've been on spring break!  NES and I took a couple of day trips at the beginning of the week, ate a full Irish breakfast for St. Patrick's day, hid inside (mostly) during the return to winter weather the last couple days have brought, had some fun baking adventures (more to come later!!), and mom came to visit one day.  Today, I adeptly avoided doing homework by spending most of the morning at the gym (spin classes are seriously no joke), and baked a cake and ran errands all afternoon. There's nothing quite like denial that break is almost over, right?

Anyway, sometime around last weekend when I was making the pie, I also made mac and cheese!  (There was an intention to make another pie, too, but that still hasn't happened.)  KEB introduced me to this recipe, and NES and I have pretty much been hooked ever since.

NES says this is his all time favorite mac and cheese.  I think it'd be pretty close for me between a real pan of Mimi's serious-homemade-from-scratch-saltine-topped mac and cheese and this.  That's saying a lot.

And the best part is that it's super easy.  No baking required!

I love making it with sharp cheddar and smoked gouda.  Or, if I'm feeling extra adventurous, I'll go with maple smoked cheddar, too!

The first time I made it, I just made it with the cheese, bacon and apple butter.  The second time, I added fresh rosemary and a little black pepper, and oh my goodness.  It made all the difference.  Seriously.

So, after the pasta cooks in milk, the cheese, bacon and herbs get mixed in.  I add the apple butter after I serve it, since NES doesn't eat it with the apple butter.  See exhibit A.
Exhibit A: Boring mac and cheese.  
But seriously, he doesn't know what he's missing.  And it is really that simple!

One Pan Apple Butter, Bacon and Gouda Mac and Cheese
from Betty Crocker

2 cups uncooked small or medium pasta (I used shells, and large shells really are too big)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (maple smoked, if you feel adventurous)
1/2 cup shredded gouda cheese (use smoked, seriously!)
1/4 cup crumbled bacon (I use about 3 strips)
1/4 cup apple butter
1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Place the milk and pasta in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to low and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until most of the milk is gone and the pasta is al dente.  

Add the cheeses, bacon, apple butter (or serve it in the individual bowls if you have picky eaters), rosemary and pepper.

Let stand 5 minutes to thicken.  Stir, and serve!

Serves 2 generously.


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