I remember as a kid begging my mom for a can of SpaghettiOs every time we went to the store. She always said the same thing, “No.” No explanation, no reasoning, just “No”.
But on occasion, when I was at a friends house or my grandma was spoiling me, I’d get to taste that magical can. I remember SpaghettiOs being the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. Salty, sweet, rich tomato flavor, savory noodles. Nothing tasted as good as those forbidden Spaghettios.
It wasn’t just Spaghettios though, I remember loving Kraft Mac & Cheese with hot dogs, Cap’n Crunch Berries, McNuggets, Fish Sticks, and Pop Tarts. The one thing these food all have in common? None of them taste as good now that I’m an adult. You see, I bought that can of SpaghettiOs, and ate them for lunch that day. What I remembered being delicious in my mind was actually watered down tomato soup with limp, broken noodles.
This left me having an existential crisis, wondering if my entire childhood was a lie. Turns out, most of my childhood wasn’t a lie, but all those foods that were once so good, were now gross and disappointing. So I set out to make something as delicious as I remembered from my childhood. Here’s a recipe for Mac & Cheese with Hot Dogs, sure to please any adult palate.
“Big Kid” Mac & Cheese
- 1 box rotini pasta
- 4 Tbsp. butter, + 2 Tbsp. butter
- 4 Tbsp. flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 cup Munster cheese, grated
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 lb sweet italian sausage
- ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
Put a large pot of water on to boil and add a liberal amount of salt.
Turn oven on to 350 fahrenheit and cook sausage until cooked through. About 15 minutes.
While the water is boiling and sausage is cooking, melt 4 Tbsp. butter in large saucepan and saute diced onions until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add 4 Tbsp. flour gradually while whisking quickly to make the roux. Let this mixture cook for 2 minutes to get rid of the flour flavor. Slowly add 1 cup heavy cream while whisking. Once cream is fully incorporated add the cheese slowly, allowing each addition to melt fully.
Boil the noodles until al dente, about 8 minutes, then drain. Remove the fully cooked sausage and slice, just like the hot dogs of your youth.
Then mix together the pasta, sausage, and cheese sauce and pour into a baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and melted butter and brown under the broiler until crispy and delicious. You’ve now recreated a more delicious version of one of your childhood favorites.
To fully embrace the childlike feeling of this dish, why not serve it with a nice red wine. You can pretend it’s just grape juice.