Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Waffling Leftovers: Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses

Update Review: December 2017

When I visit my family, my mother often makes a wonderful 5 cheese pasta dish that we call "grown up mac and cheese" from a Smitten Kitchen recipe that we have tweaked a bit.  And when we grow sick of traditional leftovers, my mother and I both really enjoy waffling it, which, you've read about before.
Waffling Transformation: Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses.
There isn't much new to this story, as its a repeat of something we have done many times.

So the answer to this one is pretty expected - Leftover Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses, Will It Waffle?  Yup.
The Original: Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses.
The original dish this time was slightly different from our previous adventures.  It is usually cooked in a cast iron skillet and finished under a broiler, but this time it was served as part of a big Christmas Eve feast, so we couldn't quite do the more fussy preparation.  And honestly, I think my mom just forgot about the cast iron skillet.

So, this was the same recipe, just, baked in a regular casserole dish.  It also had a bit more cheese on top, I think mom was feeling decadent.
Leftover Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses.
The leftovers are always good, but, reheating them results in the oils running out, and cold, it is a bit dry.
Waffling ...
So into the waffle iron we put it, no crusting, 350 degrees, about 5 minutes.
Waffled Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses.
It crisped up perfectly, extracted easily ,and was a success as always.

Why doesn't everyone waffle their leftover cheesy pasta?

Original Review, July 2017

Another installment of waffling leftovers, using leftovers I suspected would waffle great: leftover pasta.

I've waffled many other pasta dishes over the years, like mac and cheese, tuna noodle casserole, lasagna, and even choroizo wrapped pesto pasta, so when I had two-day old pasta that needed life breathed into it, I knew where to turn.  My waffle iron.
Waffling Transformation: Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses.
The answer to this one is pretty straightforward - Leftover Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses, Will It Waffle?  Yup.
The Original, Unbaked.
The original was a Smitten Kitchen recipe, pasta shells mixed with 5 cheeses, herbs, and tomatoes, baked in a cast iron skillet, and topped with lots more cheese.

My mom made this a few years ago, and it was a hit with the whole family, so she continues to make it when I visit, tweaking it a bit through the years (we use more herbs, her homemade chunky tomato sauce, a different mix of cheeses).
The Original: Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses.
I always enjoy the original, as the cast iron skillet and broiled top (optional step, but, totally recommended) yield plenty of crispy bits.  I'm all about the crispy bits.  We add plenty of ricotta for creaminess, and a smoked cheese or two to enhance the flavor, and, well, this dish is a winner.

This year, she made a double batch, one in a cast iron skillet (as per the recipe) and one in another baking pan, to compare.  It meant we had a LOT of pasta leftover.

And I knew the waffle iron would help me out with even more crispy bits.
Leftover Pasta.
We ate leftovers one day, reheated traditionally.  It was fine, although, like mac and cheese, some separation occurred, and oils ran out.

I also had some cold, which I've enjoyed in the past, a la pasta salad, but, this time it was just a bit too dry.
Waffling ... 
By day three, the waffle iron is where I turned.  At my mom's request.  She wanted to try it waffled!

So into the waffle iron a chunk went, 350°.  I let it go a fairly standard amount of time, just under 10 minutes probably.

It extracted easily.
Waffled Skillet-Baked Pasta with Five Cheeses.
The pasta waffle was exactly as I expected it to be.

Lots of crispy exterior, formed by both the pasta and the cheese.  So many little crispy bits.  The shells in particular were a fun choice, since they had more interesting contact points with the waffle iron than flat pasta like lasagna does.

The cheese didn't run out, which surprised me a bit, but perhaps this mix of cheeses (mostly hard cheeses), just worked better than the softer cheeses used formac and cheese, where I've had this problem a bit?

Anyway, it was a fine, crispy pasta waffle, although it did lose the creaminess of the original.  My mom enjoyed it topped with steamed collard greens.
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