Where would food pornography be without Pinterest? This venerable website has made curating your own personal collection of gustatory glamour shots socially acceptable, if not advisable. I thank God for you, Pinterest, especially a few Sundays ago when I discovered this board dedicated to the assembling noteworthy variations of macaroni and cheese. "Mac 'n' Cheese: it should be its own food group, right?," suggests board creator Michelle. Wise words indeed.
Perhaps the most exciting thing I learned from perusing this board is that macaroni and cheese can be made with tortellini. Given that different types of pasta (fusilli, rigatoni, etc.) can be used in the construction of standard macaroni and cheese, it's not terribly outlandish to extend this ability to stuffed pasta. Noodles filled with cheese dressed in more cheese: definitely takes your mac 'n' cheese to new heights.
After studying a few different recipes, I came up with my own variation.
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And by "variation," I mean specifically an extremely dumbed down, cheat version, because that's how I roll on weeknights.
- 1 package Buitoni sweet Italian sausage tortellini
- 1/2 cup Classico red pepper alfredo sauce*
- 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbs butter
*This amount of sauce produces a 'dry' baked texture to your macaroni and cheese. Double the amount if you prefer a 'wet' mac 'n' cheese.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook tortellini until al dente (about 8-10 minutes in boiling water). Drain and transfer into medium-size bowl. Add red pepper alfredo sauce and mix thoroughly.
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Melt butter in saucepan, add bread crumbs, salt and pepper (as desired). Brown over medium heat until crisp.
Transfer tortellini in sauce to oven-proof baking dish or skillet. Sprinkle generously with queso fresco. Top with bread crumbs. Bake for approximately 12 minutes.
Note: If you want to avoid a first-degree burn, do not, as I did, fail to remember that the handle of saucepan that has spent time in the oven will be extremely hot.
I was more than satisfied with my tortellini mac 'n' cheese and particularly delighted with its spicy kick and thick, chewy texture. Next time, I will add more sauce and cheese, as I ultimately prefer a gooier, 'wet' macaroni and cheese; however, the advantage of my first 'dry' version is that the buttery breadcrumbs don't get soggy.