I will go to my grave feeling sorry for people whose parents wouldn't let them have mac and cheese from the box. I can, on a leisurely afternoon, roll out fresh lasagna from my pasta roller. I can, if I want to, make a fast, beautiful dinner involving bucatini, garlic and a loaf of bread from the bakery. But that Kraft stuff is in a flavor class all its own. It's like a weighted blanket for your mouth.
On those nights, however, the you feel like shaking things up, Sandra Lee's reinterpretation of the classic is pretty clever. As she told People magazine in 2020, "There are so many quick dinners to make when you think outside the mac 'n' cheese box." By recruiting some pancake mix and a can of tomatoes, in fact, you can get a whole different kind of meal — pasta with a delicate tomato sauce and cheesy biscuits.
Lee makes her pasta with stewed tomatoes but I prefer diced. And while she makes her biscuits with 2 1/2 cups of pancake mix, I got great results scaling back to just 2 cups. It's a self-contained dinner that offers the comfort of a beloved pasta shape and the crunch of warm biscuits, and it can be on your plate in 15 minutes. What are you waiting for?
Recipe: Reconstructed Macaroni andCheesy Biscuits
Inspired by Sandra Lee
Makes 4 servings
- 1 box of macaroni and cheese, the kind with powdery stuff
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) of diced tomatoes (I like the fire-roasted kind.)
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 cups of pancake mix
- Preheat your oven to 450°F.
- Over high heat, set a large pot of water to boil.
- Separate the macaroni from the cheese packet.
- Drain your tomatoes so you have 2/3 cup of liquid reserved.
- In a large bowl, combine your pancake mix and 2 tablespoons of the powdered cheese mix. Add your reserved tomato liquid and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. If you need a little more liquid, add a tablespoon or so of water.
- Drop your dough in 2 tablespoon portions on an uncreased baking sheet, spaced well apart. You should have six. Bake about 10 minutes, until golden.
- Meanwhile, boil your pasta according to directions. It should take about 10 minutes.
- While the biscuits and pasta are cooking, heat your olive oil in a skillet. Add your tomatoes and cook together around 3 minutes. If you are feeling Marcella Hazan-ish, add a knob of butter.
- Drain the pasta and stir in your sauce. Top with fresh ground pepper, oregano and a grating of hard cheese, if you like.
- 10. Remove the biscuits from the oven and serve with softened butter.
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