Homemade macaroni and cheese often showed up on my desperate dinner table as the main entree when my kids were little. It was easy to boil some noodles, make a quickie cheese sauce and call it dinner. I'd sometimes add ham, pepperoni and even meatballs to the mac and cheese when I wanted to get fancy. The kids loved it because it tasted so good. I loved it because it was so easy.
It's been years since macaroni and cheese has graced the dinner table as an entree. And frankly, even if the kids were home now, they'd be a little bored with the dish, as their palates have matured so much. But the kid in me misses mac and cheese.
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So as I was missing my favorite kid-friendly pasta dish, I started thinking about how adaptable macaroni and cheese really is. You can add just about anything to it and call it dinner. Suddenly, plain macaroni and cheese was pumped up in flavor by the unlimited options right in my own fridge. I finally settled on a combination of tomatoes, onions, baby portobellos and bacon. There's nothing plain about that! Cheddar-jack cheese is just simple enough to handle the extra flavor and melts together in a lovely sauce. I ran it through the oven to add a bit of texture to the noodles, but the baking part is completely optional.
It was like an old food memory, but freshened up for today. Enjoy!
• Alicia Ross is the co-author of "Desperation Dinners" cookbook series. Write her at Kitchen Scoop, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. More at kitchenscoop.com.