There’s something special about family recipes that you enjoy and get passed down. My favorite family recipes include a few from my Mom—baked macaroni and cheese, strawberry shortcake, tuna and pasta salad, and chocolate chip cookies.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1 pound penne or elbow macaroni (I used mostaccioli)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk, heated
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Asiago, Fontina or Colby Jack
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Breadcrumbs or panko
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a deep 4-quart casserole dish.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in 1-1/2 cups of the cheddar cheese and 1-1/2 cups of the Asiago cheese. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
Combine the cheese mixture to the pasta and mix gently. Pour pasta into the casserole dish. Top with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs over the top.
Bake on the medium rack in the oven until bubbly and golden brown around the edges, about 30 minutes.
Here's my recipe for shortcakes--works well with strawberries, blueberries or peaches.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet or baking tray for easier cleanup.
2-1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (I use Calumet)
1 teaspoon granulated salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk
Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Whisk lightly with a fork to remove any lumps.
Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal--it'll look crumbly. Work quickly as you don't want the butter to melt.
Mix in milk, a little at a time with your hands or a fork until just combined. Don't over mix. Add a drop or two or milk if the mix seems dry--it should be a tad moist.
Drop dough by golfball size spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. Leave an inch or so between each biscuit. At this point, you can freeze the biscuits on a cookie sheet until frozen. Remove and place in a ziplock bag, making sure to remove as much of the air out of the bag as possible.
Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Best served warm, right out of the oven.
Split the shortcakes and fill with homemade whipped cream (or ice cream) and fresh berries. My Mom used to slice the berries and “muddle” them with a little sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice before serving on the shortcakes. I do the same.
Tuna and Pasta Salad
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Moms Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe was straight off the Nestles semi-sweet chocolate morsels bag. She perfected making these.
I’ve tried dozens of recipes over the years and have settled on one found in Good Housekeeping magazine.
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 pound bittersweet chocolate chunks (you can also use semisweet or milk chocolaté morsels)
2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted (optional)
1. Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Transfer dough to zip-seal plastic bag and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours. For longer storage, shape cookies as below and freeze flat in zip-seal bag for up to a month. Thaw 20 minutes before baking).
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
4. Scoop six 4-ounce (scant 1/2 cup) portions chilled dough onto baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between cookies. Bake until golden brown at edges but still very soft in center (Cookies will look very underbaked), 18 (for chewy) to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 5 minutes. For more crisp edges, transfer cookies from pan to cool on wire rack. For chewiest cookies, cool completely on pan. Repeat, or store remaining dough.
NOTE: If you'd like a smaller cookie, scoop chilled dough by tablespoon-sized scoop (leveled) onto prepared sheets and bake 8 to 9 minutes.
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Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food and collaborative lifestyle brand. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at select Northeast Ohio businesses including:
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