The 4th of July has always been my favorite holiday. Well, maybe not when I was a kid, Christmas and stockings and Santa and piles of presents make a pretty good argument for the top spot, but from at least my teen years on, I’ve preferred the heat and the fireworks to snow and icicle lights.
In fact, I always planned that if I ever got married, I would do it on July 4. The way I looked at it, a fireworks display would be a great backdrop to a reception and I’d always have the day off and a built-in party to celebrate each year.
I really, really love big fireworks. The sparkle and the boom just grab me. In recent years, I’ve given up going to the park for the local display because the traffic and parking and crowds cuts down on the enjoyment, but we congregate in my parents’ backyard and can usually see both the ones on the river and the ones at the baseball stadium. Of course, this year, all the big displays were canceled, and the increase in the number of people staying home meant a significant increase in the number of (illegal in my city) neighborhood fireworks being set off. The really, really LOUD type of fireworks. Rattle-the-windows fireworks. Needless to say, Murphy is NOT a fan, and the last few nights have been pretty stressful for him. (And therefore me.)
Fortunately, the positive elements still outweigh the negative. Burgers on the grill, potato salad as only my mom can make it, my specialty summer salad, simply known as “pink stuff,” and a berry shortcake dessert my sister made that was fantastic. This week’s mac is in honor of the traditional Independence Day BBQ main dish.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 8 ounces ziti noodles
- 6 Tbsp. butter
- 6 Tbsp. flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- Diced tomatoes (optional)
- Sliced onions (optional)
- Sliced or chopped pickles (optional)
- Cook the ground beef over medium heat, stirring and “chopping” to crumble as it cooks. Drain and set aside, reserving the drippings.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 9 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Melt butter in a pan, then stir in flour. Whisk 2-3 minutes until light brown.
- Add the milk and salt and continue heating over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly and becomes smooth and silky.
- Stir in 1-2 Tbsp. of the ground beef drippings.
- Remove from heat and add the cheese, stirring until melted and fully combined.
- Add cooked pasta to a mixing bowl and pour in about 1/2 – 2/3 of the cheese sauce. Add the ground beef and stir to combine. Add more cheese sauce as needed. (I ended up reserving around 1/2 cup to use when reheating the leftovers.)
- Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and top with pickle slices, diced tomatoes, and onion slices.
Like a cheeseburger in a bowl! (Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of pickles on my cheeseburgers, so after taking the photos I removed them and did the taste test with just tomatoes and onions.)
This is really good – and REALLY filling! The onions give it a little bite and the tomatoes add some sweetness. If you like pickles on your cheeseburgers, I have no doubt this would taste great leaving them in.
- If I was making this for a crowd, instead of adding the toppings myself, I would have bowls set out so that everyone could fix it to their own taste, the way we do with burgers. But it made for a pretty picture!
Posted July 5, 2020