On a trip home, I happened to meet some friends at a restaurant called Keystone Bar & Grill, famous for their unique mac and cheese and quesadillas. Amazing dishes, so creative and my favorite is their mac and cheese names, such as Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Nirvana. I am a huge Classic Rock and Alternative fan, so obviously I loved their food before even tasting it!
I came home and decided I was going to make my own version, not really experienced in the mac and cheese world, I thought I would be safe and look up a mac and cheese recipe to base my dish off of. I decided to use Muenster Cheese because it felt soft and I knew it would melt well. I actually have never had it before so I kind of just winged it at the store! I also bought some Gruyere Cheese because I wanted a little bit of a nutty cheese into the mixture.
From my previous recipe Seafood Quesadillas I had extra shrimp and Mahi Mahi. I thought, this would be super tasty in a mac and cheese dish! I had some bacon I needed to use up, so I added that to give the perfect salty crunch! This dish takes some time to make, but it’s definitely worth it in the end (and even better the next day leftover!)
I start out by whisking my goat cheese (If you don’t like goat cheese, you can substitute with feta or cheddar, or really any cheese you like!) bread crumbs, and bacon. I originally wanted to use panko crumbs, but I forgot to buy some at the store and the bread crumbs worked out great! Preheat your oven to 450º.
Start boiling a large pot of salted water. Cook your noodles according to package directions, you want them to be al dente, as in a little bit undercooked because they will also cook in the oven. Once drained, rinse your pasta with cold water and drain again, this prevents the pasta from sticking. Pour into a large bowl then place your shrimp and mahi and mix well. Set aside.
Start your cheese mixture. My favorite part of mac and cheese is obviously the cheese sauce! And it’s important that you get the right texture! Start by melting the butter on medium, then adding the flour slowly and making sure to whisk constantly to make a clumpy, flour base. Then add your milk, slowly and whisk constantly until you reach a thick consistency. It should stick to the back of a wooden spoon. Next, add your cheeses and mix until melted through. It may take a couple of mixes to break up the cheese and melt. Make sure you give it a taste before deciding it’s good. If it doesn’t taste cheesy enough, add more! If it’s not thick enough, add more flour. Also be sure to not let your mixture boil! This will clump up the flour.
Add all of your sauce into the bowl of pasta. Next add your lemon juice and zest, parsley, garlic powder and pepper. Mix well. (I omitted the salt because of the butter, cheese and bacon.. that’s enough sodium for me!)
Now add your bread crumb mixture evenly over the top of the pasta and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. I put mine on broil for the last 5 minutes and moved my dish to the top wrack to give it a good crunch on top.
Let sit for 5 minutes to let the flavors and sauce really come together.
I am not lying this is the best homemade mac and cheese I’ve ever had! One of the best surprises in this dish is the slight lemon zest you taste in every bite, it works so well with the seafood and cheese! Unless you absolutely hate seafood or have an allergy, you have to try this dish! And if you don’t like seafood, subtitute with some chicken or sausage. It’s so fun to use your imagination when in the kitchen, and the results are always something to be proud of!
What you’ll need:
13.25 ounces rotini (I used Barilla)
1/2 pound fresh shrimp, peeled with tails removed and cut in half
1/2 fillet of Mahi Mahi, cut into pieces
1 package bacon, cooked crispy and crushed into small peices
A spoonful of herbed goat cheese, crumbled
Zest of 1 large lemon, divided
Juice of the lemon
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs (or panko)
4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour (plus more if needed)
4 cups milk (whole or reduced fat)
2 ounces Gruyère Cheese, grated
8 oz Meunster Cheese, wax cut off (I used Boars Head)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper