On Thanksgiving, we feast. It’s a day to be so very thankful for the roof over our heads, the food in our bellies and the healthy family and friends that surround us. This Thanksgiving was extra special because my brother and his family who recently moved to California flew in for the week.
On Thanksgiving, my family all chooses different dishes to cook. My mom always chooses to do the heavy lifting, even as the host, so I made baked mac and cheese and roasted brussels sprouts.
I was really pleased with how they turned out so I wanted to share the recipes. I ran across a brussels sprouts recipe where I loved the cheeses it used and did my own twist to it. I personally think adding bacon to dishes sometimes overpowers the other flavors so I opted for pancetta with my brussels sprouts this year.
First things first, here’s my wonderful family.
Couple things to note: I made the breadcrumbs from scratch and I used those to top off the mac and cheese and the brussels sprouts. Also, I made the first half of the mac and cheese the night before so it took less prep time the day of. I always want to enjoy family time on the holidays so I try to choose dishes that don’t take so much time or babysitting. I highly recommend this when you offer to bring dishes. It can be delicious, simple and be the hit at the holidays.
Let’s dig in!
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Total time: 50 minutes
- 16 oz elbow macaroni
- 1/3 cup butter ( I always use a little bit more, but here’s probably the measurement for the ones watching how much butter you use)
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (if you don’t like as much of a kick, use less or none at all)
- 3 1/2 cups whole milk
- 8oz block of medium cheddar cheese that I shred
- 8oz block of sharp cheddar cheese that I shred
- Note: you can buy pre-shredded cheese, I just think freshly shredded cheese tastes better and I like the texture more, but that’s just personal preference.
- 1 loaf of nice thick bread from the bakery that is NOT sliced
- First things first, the night before you cook, leave the loaf of bread out of the package so it can stale. I just take it out and drape a paper towel over it
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and pour the elbow macaroni in there to cook
- While that’s boiling, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and slice your stale loaf of bread into small pieces (see picture)
- Toss the small bread pieces into a bowl and toss in olive oil just enough to dampen the bread, 1 tsp of oregano, dash of salt and pepper and 1 tsp of smoked paprika
- Spread the bread pieces out on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for approx 15 min or until a little crispy and a darker brown shade. Since you’ll toss the cooked pieces in a ziplock back and crunch up into breadcrumbs, you want them to be baked a little more on the crispy side.
- Now back to the macaroni– while your breadcrumbs are in the oven, your noodles should be ready to drain so drain the noodles and set aside
- In that same large pot, heat it to medium heat on your stovetop and melt the butter
- Once the butter is melted, slowly whisk in the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper until a nice brown
- Slowly stir in the milk, 1/2 cup at a time to allow it to thicken without getting clumpy. Trust me, it’s worth it. Once you get all the milk in, continue to slowly stir until it’s thick. There is nothing like a thickening milk mixture… AHH love it
- Now, add in your freshly shredded cheddar cheeses (exclude 1 cup of cheese) and it’ll melt into the flour and milk mixture creating a delicious cheese sauce for the mac and cheese
- Once the cheese is all incorporated and melted, you’ll add in the elbow noodles and stir until all combined
- Pour the mac and cheese into a casserole dish, top with the 1 cup of shredded cheese you set aside. Top with those fresh breadcrumbs– just enough to coat the top
- Bake in the preheated oven (375 degrees F) for 20 minutes
- Note: When I prep it the night before I do all of these steps and STOP before I add the breadcrumbs and cheese on top. I put the casserole dish in the fridge overnight and then do the last two steps the morning of
Now on to the brussels sprouts! This recipe has a nice little spice to it and as I mentioned before, I switched up the bacon for pancetta and shallots.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Total time: 40 minutes
- 2 lb brussels sprouts, halved
- 5 slices of cured pancetta, diced up
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 small shallots, minced
- kosher salt
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 cup freshly shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1 cup freshly shredded Gruyére (man, this cheese stinks, but it tastes great with this veggie)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the butter, pancetta, brussels sprouts, shallots, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir occasionally until tender
- Once tender, pour the cooked brussels sprouts mixture into a casserole dish
- Pour the heavy cream and cheeses over top and give it a stir so it’s all mixed together
- Top with breadcrumbs and bake until cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes
I hope you like these dishes and try them out for the holidays! Let me know if you do and please tag me. I’d love to see them!