Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned. Sometimes, you just gotta roll with it and adjust and make it work. So this mac ‘n cheese was supposed to have lobster and I couldn’t get my hands on tails, so, here we are with shrimp mac ‘n cheese. But not just any shrimp. The Argentinian shrimp from Trader Joe’s. It’s sweet and meaty and very lobster-y.
The key to a baller mac ‘n cheese is 100% the cheese. Using good quality white cheddar and gouda gives the flavor a little tang and a lot of creaminess. And if you’re on a diet, just avert your eyes. There’s nothing light about this recipe and I mean, if you’re going to go for mac ‘n cheese, let’s just really go for it, right?
So, mac ‘n cheese is actually really quite straightforward. You’ll want to prep some of your ingredients ahead of time and make sure you know the steps to making the roux. A roux is a mixture of equal parts butter and flour and is the base to a lot of sauces, especially those delicious creamy ones! You stir together melted butter and flour until golden brown, and then your milk. Your milk, by the way, is whole milk and heavy cream in this recipe. Don’t skimp! Don’t sub. Like I said – avert your eyes! ha
So, once your roux and milk have come to a boil, you’ll turn the heat back down and drop in all of your shredded cheeses. There’s your sauce! You could, 100%, just drop in cooked pasta and call it a day. Or you can toss in pasta that is just 1 minute shy of al dente, top it with bread crumbs and bake that sucker!
I had used whole shrimp for the garnish on this wannabe lobster mac and rough chopped the shrimp in the mixture so there were bite size pieces. You don’t want to be poking at the dish and have to scoop up a whole big shrimp, right?! So chop them up raw (you don’t want to make them tough by cooking them ahead), toss them in, and they bake up deliciously.
The other crucial part of the recipe is the bread crumbs. There’s serious magic in the bread crumbs. I used a mixture of traditional bread crumbs and panko with a whole bunch of butter. And a dash of salt. Then you bake it up until golden and bubbly and just go for it.
Shrimp Baked Mac n Cheese
- 1 lb cavatappi (or elbows or any tube shaped pasta)
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 1/3 c all purpose flour do not recommend using whole wheat because of the texture
- 2 c whole milk
- 2 c heavy whipping cream see notes
- 2.5 c shredded white cheddar cheese
- 2.5 c shredded Gruyere cheese
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 lb shrimp, chopped thawed if frozen & tails removed
- 3/4 c panko
- 3/4 c seasoned bread crumbs
- Preheat your oven to 350. Lightly spray a 3 qt baking dish or au gratin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
- Grate/shred cheeses and set aside.
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, minus 1 minute. Drain.
- While the pasta is cooking, start the roux by melting 6 tbsp of butter in a saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat.
- Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour into the butter; whisk until the mixture is bubbly and golden, about 1 minute.
- To the butter and flour mixture, gradually whisk in the heavy cream and milk. Continue whisking until you see bubbles; continue to cook and whisk for 2 minutes.
- Add half the cheese and whisk until smooth and melted. Then, add the second half of the cheese and whisk until smooth and melted.
- Add salt & pepper, to taste.
- Add in cooked pasta, stirring until combined.
- Add in chopped shrimp; stir until combined.
- Pour mixture into baking dish, set aside.
- In a medium pan, melt remaining 6 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Once melted, add panko and bread crumbs until well coated in butter.
- Top your pasta with the panko-bread crumb mixture.
- Bake about 25-30 minutes until bubbly and the panko crumbs are golden brown. If they start to brown too quickly, top the baking dish with a piece of foil to prevent burning.
- I used a 3 qt Le Creuset Gratin baking dish.
- To shred the cheese, I used my food processor with the cheese grater attachment, which I’ve never done before, but it was so easy!
- You can also do 1 cup of heavy cream and 3 cups of whole milk, rather than 2 & 2.
- I used Trader Joe’s Argentinian shrimp, which I let thaw. I put them into the pasta raw.
- I made the pasta while I was making the roux to keep things moving. Just have all your ingredients prepared ahead of time!