Posted by Megan | Budget, Budget & Quick, Dinner, Quick

I cut my own onion!! This is a feat for me, since what usually happens is there’s one big knifeslice of the onion, and then I start bawling like a toddler. But tonight, because half the onion had already been cut and put in the fridge, it actually went smoothly. Amazing.

Okay, now that I got that excitement out of the way, let me explain Sunday Night Dinners (SNDs). Will has joined a soccer league that plays every Sunday at 6 on the other side of town, so he has declared (with my permission) that Sunday nights are my night to cook. By myself. Like a big girl. Will picked out a relatively simple dinner from Budget Bytes for me to make, until I saw the chopped onion part. Hah (tremble with terror).

Tonight’s dinner began with requiring me to cook pasta and broccoli simultaneously (since I was using frozen, not fresh broccoli), which I managed to get perfect timing on. Miracles do happen, apparently. So while those two things were cooking separately, then together, I decided I would brave cutting up the onion, which thank goodness, went well–otherwise, we wouldn’t have had dinner. I secretly cursed Will with leaving me with the task of cutting the onion, but alas, I tackled the beast. After that went alright, I also shredded up cheese, which is something I definitely need practice at. Especially in the not shredding off my fingertips part…No injuries to report tonight,  but that’s because I gave up with a good half inch block of cheese left and just cut it since all it was doing was melting anyways!
Once the pasta and broccoli were done cooking, I drained and set them aside (with a few pieces jumping ship into the sink…womp womp). I started cooking the onion and butter until it was soft, then added flour to make a roux. That seemed to work correctly (thank goodness BB has step by step pictures), so I added half and half (since we apparently drank all of our milk…) and let that all sit to simmer. I went rogue and added some cracked pepper, white pepper, and a teensy bit of cayenne while it began to simmer. Once it was good and thick, I added the shredded cheddar and grated parmesan, which melted perfectly and immediately. Add a dash of sriracha, and the sauce was ready 🙂

Luckily, this was the exact same time Will got home from soccer, so I was putting the broccoli and pasta into the sauce when he walked in the door, meaning it was perfectly gooey for serving. We were both satisfied with the warm comfort food on a slightly chilly, damp night here in Tallahassee. Will had seconds and I predict he will spend the rest of the evening on the couch with a full belly and our cat, Oscar. I, however, saved room for another Julia cupcake (this weeks specialty? A Pinterested Andes mint chocolate recipe that tastes like the amazing mint birthday cakes that my dad used to make). Dear Lord, those things are amazing.

Cooking Notes: The pasta I used was Rigatoni, not shells, and it worked just fine.

Broccoli Shells ‘n Cheese (adapted from Budget Bytes; serves 4)
8 oz. pasta
1 large crown broccoli
1/2 medium onion
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
8 oz. sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tsp hot sauce (optional)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Get a large pot of salted water boiling. Rinse the broccoli well and cut it into small florets. When the water comes to a full boil, add the pasta. Set a timer for 8 minutes, then add the broccoli. Cook the pasta and broccoli for two minutes more and then pour everything into a colander to drain. Set them aside until ready to add to the cheese sauce. While the pasta and broccoli are doing their thing, you can begin the cheese sauce. Finely dice the onion and cook with butter over medium heat until softened (about 2-3 minutes).

Add the flour to the butter and onion. The flour and butter will forma a paste-like mixture (roux). Using a whisk, stir and cook the roux for 1-2 minutes more taking care not to let it scorch. This slightly cooks the flour preventing the cheese sauce from having an overly flour or paste-like flavor. Add the milk and whisk well to dissolve all of the flour clumps. Add freshly cracked pepper at this point. Bring the mixture up to a simmer (you may need to raise the heat just slightly). When the sauce reaches a simmer, it will begin to thicken. When it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, it’s time to add the cheese.

Turn the burner off and whisk in the shredded cheese (and parmesan if using) until it is fully melted in. Give the cheese sauce a taste and add salt, pepper and (optional) hot sauce, to taste. Once you have the cheese sauce seasoned to your liking, stir in the cooked and drained pasta and broccoli. Serve hot and gooey!

Recipe: Budget Bytes: Broccoli Shells ‘n Cheese

Julia’s cupcake that I’m going to enjoy later (read her blog Baked Visions):
Our cat, Oscar:

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