White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese

White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese
White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese

How’s Fall going for you?! I’ve been consistently wearing a cozy sweater each day because it’s actually chilly, foggy, and refreshingly brisk… just like how Fall should be. Way to be seasonally appropriate for once, San Francisco. We’ve roasted 2 squashes in the last week and I just watched Hocus Pocus for the first time in like 15 years. So, I think I’m doing Fall pretty right!

One of my favorite Fall foods to make is Mac and Cheese! Correction, I like to eat mac and cheese all year round but there is something about this time of year that inspires me to whip up a big cozy pot of cheese and carbs. I’m historically a mac and cheese purist. Please hold on all the vegetables (especially broccoli!), pesto (isn’t that just like a pasta dish at that point?), and buffalo chicken. I might tolerate some truffle oil. At the end of the day, I just want el dente pasta, 1-2 decent cheeses, some crunchy breadcrumbs (not always necessary though), and the perfectly creamy, but not to goopy cheese sauce. I’m not a “load it up” type of person. But that’s just my personal preference. You may disagree and that it totally okay!

I’m just slightly breaking my keep it simple rule with this White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese because today is my favorite little brother’s birthday! Happy Birthday, Wai! His real name is Tyler, but we refer to each other in our Chinese names : ) He’s turning 24 and is probably busy studying away about the brain or some highly technical medical procedure because he’s the smarty pants in our family and is doing the whole medical school thing. I’m such a proud sister! Anyways, why am I making him a mac and cheese for his birthday? Well, last year he asked me if I had a mac and cheese recipe on my blog so that he could make it to bring to a Friendsgiving. I DIDN’T HAVE ONE AND I WAS HORRIFIED. This was the first time my brother even asked me about a recipe and up until then I wasn’t even sure if he trusted me as a food authority. Also, why the heck don’t I have a recipe for one of my favorite foods?! I was super disappointed and ended up pointing him in the direction of a pretty good standard mac and cheese recipe. So it’s taken me almost a year to finally share a mac and cheese recipe. I’ve gotten distracted with other noodles and dumplings along the way.

This mac and cheese is simple in its foundation, but the little details of it are inspired by my brother. The fact that this is a stove top macaroni makes life a whole lot easier if you’re a hard working medical student constantly on the go! You could make it all in one pot if you wanted to! My brother has always been a spicier person than me, in terms of food and also maybe personality, lol. Sriracha adds a nice spicy kick and mellows out the sharpness of cheddar. This mac consists of 2 really good cheeses, both of which I think you should always have in your refrigerator. Sharp Cheddar for snacking and grilled cheeses. Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan works too!) for adding that salty cheesy bite to pastas, salads, or soups. The toppings are optional, you could literally eat this straight out of the pot. I might have done that with a few spoonfuls. To make life feel a little fancier, add the bread crumbs and green onions (my brother shares my love and passion for green onions). Drop them from high up in the air and pretend like you’re making a slow-mo segment for Chef’s table. It’s your birthday. Be fancy! Oh, and if you want to really make this into a true Tyler Cho Mac and Cheese, add in some cubed chicken breast or fried chicken skin! That was just venturing out a little too far from my Mac and cheese comfort zone.

Happy Birthday, Brother!


White Cheddar Sriracha Mac and Cheese

serves 4-6

materials:

16 oz pasta shells
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup AP flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 cups milk
4 cups sharp white cheddar
1/3 cup pecorino romano
3 tbsp Sriracha - or more if you like it really spicy
1/4 panko bread brumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
green onions for garnish

steps:

  1. Cook your pasta according to the package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

  2. In a large pot or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in flour, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Mixture will resemble a thick paste. Carefully pour in milk while continually whisking. Whisk constantly for 4-6 minutes until thick and smooth. Reduce heat to low and mix in cheese and Sriracha until melted.

  3. Add pasta into the cheese sauce and toss until evenly coated.

  4. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add in bread crumbs. Stir the panko. Toast for a few minutes until golden brown. Stir every 20 seconds so the panko doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and top the mac and cheese with bread crumbs and green onions.

  5. Enjoy!

Notes: If you prefer a baked option, instead of stovetop, cook your pasta for 2 minutes less. Combine pasta with cheese sauce and place in a baking dish. Combine bread crumbs with olive oil and top your mac and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 until bubbly and golden brown.

Instant Ramen Pasta Salad

Instant Ramen Pasta Salad
Instant Ramen Pasta Salad
Instant Ramen Pasta Salad
Instant Ramen Pasta Salad
Instant Ramen Pasta Salad
Instant Ramen Pasta Salad
Instant Ramen Pasta Salad
Instant Ramen Pasta Salad
Instant Ramen Pasta Salad

There are a lot of things in life that I am unsure about. Like where am I going to live in the next 5 years? Or do I actually enjoy mushrooms or do I just tolerate them? But there are also a handful of things in life that I am absolutely sure about. I want to live within a 7 hours drive from my family. And that Reuben is my soulmate because he tolerates my craziness and loves all the same foods that I do. AND my favorite food group is instant ramen and I could probably eat it every day for the rest of my life if I was forced to choose one thing and if sodium intake didn't really matter. I just love it so much!! I'm going to let you in on a little secret... I actually prefer instant ramen to real ramen. (GASP) Ah, I'm sorry! That makes me such a terrible foodie, right??? It's true though. I'm honestly not a fan of the really rich porky broths. It's a little too much for me. I've had ramen in a milky chicken broth and I was all about it! But a cheap 50 cent package of beef flavored ramen will always be my go-to if I need a quick and satisfying meal.

There was an intern at my office last Fall, who only ate instant ramen (oriental flavor… whatever that means!) and canned tuna on crackers for lunch. Every day. As much as her lack of vegetable intake concerned my internal grandma, I respected her lunch choices. I wish I had the courage to bring instant ramen in for lunch! But I’m pretty sure I would get judged hard by my coworkers and I’m also pretty sure I should eat more vegetables during the day.

I guess this recipe is a happy hybrid of that though! Pasta salad is my favorite type of salad because of the pasta, obviously. I like it heavy on the carbs. Light on the dressing. And the brighter the vegetables the better! I actually had ramen pasta salad before at a high school graduation party many many years ago. It was AWFUL. I remember being so excited that it existed and feeling so disappointed when I tasted it. The veggies and noodles were mushy and the dressing was so acidic it hurt. So disappointing. I’ve blocked it from my memory until now.

This pasta salad is the opposite of that dreaded Midwestern graduation pasta salad. The noodles are perfectly al dente, the dressing is something you will want to put on everything, and it’s full of the prettiest and freshest vegetables you can get your hands on. I used edamame, which you can pick up from the frozen section all year long, my beloved green onions, purple cabbage, and beautiful watermelon radishes. You could use regular radishes, but the watermelon radishes really jazz up the pasta salad and make it look like confetti! Whenever I find them at the store I pick one up to add a little hot pink to my avocado toast or the occasional salad. The beauty of this recipe, and all pasta salads really, is that it can be made in advance and it tastes better and better the longer it sits. Instant Ramen Pasta Salad is particularly quick to make because well, it’s instant!

PS. Should I change the name of this recipe to Instant Ramen Salad or keep it as Instant Ramen Pasta Salad? Tell me what to do!


Instant Ramen Pasta Salad

serves 6

Materials :

5 packages of instant ramen
1 cup blanched edamame
1 cucumber
1 watermelon radish
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage
2 green onions chopped - white and greens separated
 

Miso Ginger Dressing :

1 1/2 tbsp white miso paste
1 instant ramen soup mix package -  if it's a simple base like beef or chicken
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves
1" chunk of ginger
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt - use a little more if not using soup mix package

Recipes:

1. Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Place instant ramen noodles in the boiling water and boil or 2 minutes until the noodles are al dente. Remove noodles from hot water and immediately rinse with cold water. Drain noodles and set aside noodles in the fridge to chill.

2. Prepare all your veggies. Thinly slice a watermelon radish other on a mandolin or with a super sharp knife. Cut the cucumber into bite sized pieces. Thinly slice the purple cabbage and chop the green onion stalks. Set veggies aside.

3. Prepare your dressing by placing all the dressing ingredients in a food processor and blend for about 1 minute. If you don't have a food processor you can whisk all the liquids and seasoning together and grate in the ginger and garlic.

4. Take the noodles out of the fridge and toss the noodles with dressing so that everything is evenly coated. Mix in your veggies and enjoy!

* Salad can be made the day before and kept in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Stuffed Shells with Kale Pesto

Reuben and I have been dating for 3 years, and for 3 years he has been telling me about how wonderful his mom's stuffed shells are. A box of jumbo pasta shells has been sitting at the very top of our cupboard for the last year and I got tired of seeing it and fantasizing about these mystical stuffed shells. 

K : "So, why haven't you made stuffed shells for me yet?!" 

R : "I'm trying to get licensed here, Kristina. I don't got no time to be stuffing shells."

K : "Oh right... I'm going to figure it out then!" (puts on pants and scurries off to accidentally buy spinach instead of basil for the pesto).

End scene.

Reuben and I moved into our sunny little apartment in the Inner Richmond a little over a year ago. Ever since then our cooking endeavors have been getting more and more elaborate. Getting crazy in the kitchen is a lot easier when you don't have a bunch of roommates to booty bump with. However, since we've moved in with each other, Reuben has been studying and taking his exams to become a licensed architect. That means 7 exams! Plus an extra special test if you want to be licensed in California. So that means my adventure buddy is stuck inside with his nose in a book or listening to some man drone on about structures for hours. He doesn't have time to stuff shells. He has 3+1 more tests to pass before he never has to study again! I can't wait! He'll make me so many pizzas and we'll go on so many hikes to burn off all the pizza!

It's all good though. I'm a strong independent woman fully capable of making my own stuffed shells. I got the recipe from Reuben's mom and started working! I decided to add a Kale Pesto to the mix because I've been loving Kale Pesto lately. It's so fresh and bright, I could put it on everything. You'll also notice that I used Thai Basil for my pesto. The Asian Market a block from our place sells really beautiful Thai Basil and pretty sad looking Italian Basil. It honestly, doesn't make that huge of a difference in terms of flavor. I might even say that Thai Basil tastes a little better!

When I ate one of these 4 cheese filled pasta pillows, I finally understood why Reuben loved them so much. They were so gooey and comforting. Yet somehow light and fluffy from the mix of Ricotta and Cottage Cheese. I convinced myself that these were semi-healthy or not super bad for you because of the amount of greens that were on my counter top when I first start. Look at it all! I just ignore that there are 4 different cheese in there...

Reuben was super satisfied and said it tasted like his childhood. Success!


Stuffed Shells with Kale Pesto

Kale Pesto :

1 Bunch of Kale (about 3 cups chopped)

1 Packed Cup of Basil

1/4 Cup Pinenuts

5 Garlic Cloves

1/4 C Olive Oil + 1 tsp for pinenuts

1/2 Parmesan Cheese

1 tsp Salt

 

Tomato Sauce :

28oz  Can of Crushed Tomatoes

6 Large Basil Leaves

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

S+P

 

Stuffed Shells :

1LB Jumbo Pasta Shells

3 Cup Chopped Fresh Spinach

8oz Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

8oz Cottage Cheese

1 egg

1 Medium White Onion - diced

3 Garlic Cloves

1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese + more for garnish

1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella 

S+P

Steps :

1. Start making the pesto by heating a tsp of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Toast the pinenuts until golden brown. Add kale, basil, pinenuts, parmesan cheese, garlic cloves, and salt into a food processor or immersion blender. Pulse everything a little bit at a time and slowly add your olive oil. Add a little more olive oil if you want your pesto a little looser. Transfer pesto to a small bowl or container and set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta shells and cook for 2 minutes less than instructed.

3. Make a simple tomato sauce by simmering your crushed tomatoes with fresh basil and olive oil. Let your sauce slowly simmer for 20 mins. Season with salt and pepper. You could also use your favorite pasta sauce if you don't want to make your own.

4. To make your pasta filling, heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a skillet to medium high heat and sauté the diced onions and garlic until soft. about 5 minutes. Add chopped spinach to the pan and cook until wilted. About 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a bowl and allow to cool.

5. Combine ricotta, cottage cheese, and 1 egg in a medium bowl. Mix to combine and add cooled onion and spinach mixture. Mix in parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

6. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add a layer of tomato sauce to the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Start stuffing your shells by adding a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling to each shell. Arrange your shells in the pan until full. Add the remaining tomato sauce and pesto in between the gaps and on top of the shells. Top the whole dish with mozzarella and sprinkle of parmesan.

7. Cover the baking dish with foil and baked covered for 25 mins. After 25 mins, remove foil and baked uncovered for an additional 15 minutes to brown.

8. Let cool and enjoy!