Hey All! I should first introduce myself since this is Tanantha's husband writing this post! My name is Keith and I would like to share with you all an easy recipe for the guys to make for their gals. The reason I decided to write this post is because about three weeks ago I had a busy week at work and was feeling bad that I wasn't spending much time at home - I think I missed dinner every night that week! I'm not much of a cook, and hadn't actually cooked in literally years, but I thought it would be a nice gesture to return the favor in the cooking department after a long week. That Friday rolled around and I contemplated a few different things to prepare but eventually landed on the following two-course meal:
Parmesan Shells and Cheese
Beverage: Cabernet Sauvignon Wine
Appetizer: Mozzarella and Tomatoes
Main Dish: Parmesan and Shells
Mozzarella Cheese in block form (Appetizer)
Cilantro or Parsley
6 tablespoons Flour
1 cup Chicken Broth
1 1/2 cups 2% Milk
8 ounces Small or Medium Pasta Shells
1 cup Bread Crumbs (preferrably italian style)
3/4 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
3 tablespoons Butter
1/2 teaspooon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Pepper
This meal is VERY filling, so be aware of that before you prepare. In other words, there will be A LOT OF LEFTOVERS (and not just because the recipe serves 4-6 quantity-wise!).
To start off, pour a couple glasses of the Cab wine (one for your significant other and one for yourself) and let sit at the place setting where dinner will be served to decant in the glass while you prepare the appetizer (this will let the wine breathe for a little while and usually is a technique to enhance the drinking enjoyment of the wine).
For the appetizer preparation, first pre-heat the oven to around 300 degrees. slice a fresh tomato into even slices about 1/4" to 3/8" thick. Next, slice a fresh mozzarella block of cheese such that even nice squares are cut at around the same thickness as the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes on a cookie sheet with aluminum foil covering it. Space the tomatoes evenly and then place the slices of mozzarella on top of the tomatoes - one for each tomato slice. Lastly, coarsely chop up some cilantro or parsley for garnish and sprinkle on top of each location of tomato + mozzarella slice. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and let bake for about 5-10 minutes or just until the mozzarella starts melting over the tomatoes onto the aluminum foil. Take out the cookie sheet and scoop two or three tomatoes onto a small plate and serve! This goes very nicely with the wine and is a very light but satisfying at the same time! This was the easy part for me....
The main dish is basically an elegant version of Macaroni and Cheese but it is oh so savory! This main dish preparation was the tough part for me. It certainly gave me an even higher level of appreciation for the true talent that my lovely little wifey has in the kitchen for sure! You might find some of my boo-boos during this meal preparation as indicative of my novice cooking skills; and you would be correct! Haha
To prepare the main course, start off by boiling at least 5 or so quarts of water in a large enough stove top pot to get ready to cook the shells. Add salt to the water to help it boil faster and for taste. Once the water reaches a boil, add the shells and let cook for about 8-10 minutes. BE VERY CAREFUL HERE. Haha, yes I boiled the shells for too long and went well past the desired 'Al Dente' cooking texture to prepare for the next step in the shells' journey! OOPS...
Locate a saucepan and melt 3 tablespoons of butter on low to medium stovetop heat. Next, stir in the flour. You will likely notice as I did that the flour overwhelms the small amount of butter and so the butter starts to clump into little balls quickly and the saucepan is mostly just dry flour at this point. Stir in the milk and chicken broth at this point to get things going a little more smoothly. Stir the mixture during the time it is simmering. Continue to cook, stirring until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the parmesan cheese and continue to stir until the cheese is melted. It starts smelling and looking pretty awesome at this point! Once the shells are done, drain well and add back to the big pot you cooked them in. Next, add the sauce from the saucepan into the pot with the shells.
Mix all of it together well and transfer to a lightly buttered standard casserole dish. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top, and also sprinkle the chopped cilantro or parsley over the top as well. Now, at this point, I decided to take what was left over from my appetizer tomato and dice up an amount to sprinkle on top of the dish as well - this I think could be done as option however. Bake the dish at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serves 4-6 people.