Let’s be honest. This is probably the one anyone who reads here has been waiting for. Does anyone NOT like pizza? I certainly don’t know anybody like that. (Disclaimer – as a very young child, I was a super picky eater and would only eat plain cheese pizza. I grew out of that.) Growing up and through college, pizza was essentially synonymous with pepperoni. (But NO to pineapple. Fruit does not belong on pizza. Fruit should not be HOT unless it’s in PIE.)
Into my 20s I discovered “gourmet” pizza – with things like sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. White sauce and grilled chicken. Spinach and garlic. I was a fan! These days, I still almost always default to something like “chicken bacon garlic ranch” pizza. But, to most of us, including me – if you call a dish “Pizza Something,” we’re going to expect it to have pepperoni.
A week or so ago, while grocery shopping, I happened to pick up a package of pre-made pizza crusts and some pepperoni. It had been forever since I’d made a pizza at home – I have frequent flier miles with Pizza Hut and Dominoes but hadn’t MADE one – but I had a craving. (It was very good.) I actually wasn’t thinking about it for mac and cheese because I was at that time working on my college football/Cougar Gold tie-in. But since the pizza rounds I bought were small, there was quite a bit left and it seemed like a natural fit with the start of the NFL season this week … pizza and football just GO together the way pizza and pepperoni do.
Adapted from Tastemade UK (converting the measurements from metric to US standards was jolly good fun!)
- 8 ounces rigatoni pasta
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 4 Tbsp. flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 tbsp. tomato sauce (or tomato puree, as the Brits apparently call it)
- 2 cups shredded part-skim low-moisture mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 ounce pepperoni, chopped; plus more slices for topping
- 1-2 ounces fresh cileigine mozzarella (see notes)
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta 9-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Melt the butter over medium-low heat.
- Stir in flour and whisk continually for 2-3 minutes.
- Slowly add milk and cook approximately 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the tomato “puree”
- Add the cheeses and stir to melt
- Add the pasta and stir to coat.
- Add the chopped pepperoni and stir to distribute throughout.
- Pour the mixture into an oven safe baking dish.
- Top with pepperoni slices and chunks of fresh mozzarella.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling.
- Finish with a couple of minutes under the broiler if desired. (And add more hunks of mozzarella if desired. I desired.)
Quite tasty! You really can’t go wrong with cheese and pepperoni – in fact, I wish I’d added more chopped pepperoni. The recipe I was adapting didn’t call for that, only pepperoni slices on top, but I thought mixing some right in would be a worthy addition and it was … and more would be better. Next time I would at least double it. I’d also recommend a heavier hand than I used with the slices on top – it was pretty, but it needs MORE. And finally, as mentioned above, I was somewhat winging it with the measurements due to the conversion factor and the sauce was a little bit runny and not quiiiite as cheesy as I’d prefer. Next time I would either reduce the milk by maybe half a cup or increase the cheese (another half cup of either). Don’t get me wrong, it will still get eaten, it’s very good!
- I’ve mentioned more than once that fresh mozzarella in water is not a great choice for mac and cheese in general, but in this case, it makes a nice topping. You can get whatever size – bocconcini, ciliegine, perlini – and just tear or cut it into chunks to sprinkle across the top.
Posted September 13, 2020