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This is a sort-of free-form, gourmet kiddie Mac ‘n Cheese. Whatever you want to call it, once you have made this simple but ‘classy’ version of the old classic, you will be begged for more several times per month. And who can say no to a special request if it only takes 30 minutes from start to finish? However, the cheese and bacon used in the ingredients below may not meet the 'budget-friendly' criteria. Use any tasty semi-hard cheese that you can find that is on a special. And look for bacon bits or smoked sausages, often cheaper than bacon. That should bring the cost down. Remember, every little bit adds up to bigger savings.

Mama Macaroni
For gourmet kids!

Ingredients


  • 250 g streaky bacon, cut into small batons
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 400 g mixed mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 600 ml milk (or half cream and half milk)
  • 2 packets instant cheese sauce
  • 5 ml dried oregano (or to taste)
  • large pinch ground nutmeg
  • 125 ml cream
  • 250 ml (tightly packed) tasty cheese like Emmenthaler, coarsely grated
  • 125 ml parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 250 g elbow macaroni or penne pasta, cooked, seasoned and oiled
  • salt and freshly-milled black pepper
  • to serve: more tasty cheese, finely grated



Chef's hint: There is nothing mamsy-pansy-prissie about this dish ... it's mom's loving mush and everybody usually loves it. However, you can 'ponsify' it by substituting the sauce powder with a roux and using Italian cheese. If you like a stronger mushroom flavour, add 50 g dried mushrooms soaked in 250 ml boiling water for 30 minutes. In this case, use the soaking liquid but reduce the milk by an equal amount. In fact, you can add anything you fancy as that is what mom's mush is about ... as long as it comes from the heart!

Method


Place the bacon in a heated saucepan and lightly brown while its own fat is rendering. Add the olive oil and onion and sauté until translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they release their juices.

Whisk together the milk or half and half, sauce powder, oregano and nutmeg and add to the saucepan. Stir until it boils and thickens.

Remove from heat and stir in the cream, 250 ml grated cheese, the parsley and the cooked pasta and toss lightly. Season to taste and serve, passing around a bowl of finely grated cheese and a pepper mill for the adults.

Serves 6 … depending on ages of the kids!