Tonight, I made an easy stove-top version of macaroni and cheese for my kids and I (the hubby was working late again).  Nothing against my friends at Kraft, but sometimes it’s just as easy to make it yourself.  I used mini wagon wheel macaroni made by Barilla pasta.  You can check them out on the web at www.barillaus.com

My kids get a kick out of me giving a funny name to their dinner-time favorites and so for new meals, I try to come up with something new or a name that will be intriguing to their little kid minds.  My oldest is interested interested in cowboys (so the little one is too), therefor I named tonight’s meal: hitch your wagons macaroni with cowboy carrots (the carrots were just served on the side with hummus).

My version of a stove-top macaroni & cheese.
My version of a stove-top macaroni & cheese.

Here’s the recipe…let me know what you think.  And remember, I love a big ol’ plate of Kraft, but this one’s just if you feel like you want to make something a little more homey from your kitchen.  It makes quite a bit of kid-size servings and I think it would be fun if you were going to invite another Mom and her kids over for dinner.  For the mom guests, I’d add a nice salad with a homemade vinaigrette (see recipe below).

Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese with Ham
1 lb mini pasta shapes (I tested with Barilla Mini Wheels)
3/4 Cup light sour cream
1 1/2 C 1% milk
3 Cups cheddar cheese
2 tsp Dijon mustard (or other favorite mustard)
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1C ham, small diced (option: use your favorite brand hotdog)
1/2 C tomato, small dice & seeds removed (used for the Mommy serving only)
Butter-flavor oil spray
3 tbsp plain dried breadcrumbs
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
Boil the pasta according to package directions.  Drain and empty into large mixing bowl.  Immediately add sour cream and incorporate into pasta.  Set aside.
Add milk to medium-sized, heavy -bottomed sauce pan.  Warm over medium heat.  Bring milk to a gentle simmer, but do not boil.  Add cheese, salt and nutmeg.  Stir constantly until cheese incorporates into warm milk.  Your end result should be a cheese sauce with a smooth consistency. 
Remove from heat and add to mixing bowl.  Also add in diced ham.  Stir to combine. 
Spray a small skillet with oil just to coat.  Add bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.  Shake skillet constantly over medium heat just until breadcrumbs turn golden brown.  Remove from heat to small serving or relish bowl.
Allow the kids to sprinkle on their own cheese-bread crumbs.  I also added the diced, seeded tomato to my serving for additional flavor and texture.
Basic Vinaigrette
3/4 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 Cup red wine vinegar
Pinch of Kosher salt
Pinch of fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 crushed garlic clove
Add first two ingredients into a small mixing bowl.  Add Kosher salt and black pepper.  Add Dijon mustard and using a small whisk, blend ingredients until they emulsify.  Drop in crushed garlic clove. 
The garlic clove will add great flavor, just be sure to remove before bringing vinaigrette to the table to serve.  I wouldn’t want to be the gues that accidentally bites into that.
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