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My Genetically Modified Ox

Scott has the constitution of a genetically modified ox.  He goes outside in jeans and a sweater while I straggle behind, adjusting my fuzzy layers, clomping through the snow with the grace and style of a drunk Snuffleupagus.  I have seen him get sick only once–years ago–and even then his only symptoms were a scruffy voice and a short-lived predilection for ginger ale.  He doesn’t have the slightest idea of what it’s like to be truly laid out by the flu, but he tries to help when it happens to me.  He sits on the edge of the bed and surveys the wreckage–the comforter pocked with wads of tissues, the four glasses of water on the nightstand, the humidifier chugging away–and, with the magnanimity of a nobleman who has everything, he asks if there’s anything he can do.

But oh, how the mighty have fallen.uncooked pastaThe other day, he woke up with a stuffy nose and a cough that could cut through wood.  I gave him some medicine and put him back to bed, but soon I found him pacing around the kitchen, muttering “I dohting I cannidoh.   I DOHTING I CANNIDOH!”

“I’m having trouble understanding you,” I said.

He gesticulated wildly toward a loaf of bread.

“Rhymes with bread?” I asked.

He mimed a horizontal motion with his hand.

“Cutting a log! You want to cut a log.”

He rolled his eyes.

“Try something else,”  I said.

He jammed his hand into the toaster oven.

“I think you have a fever,” I said.  “The toaster oven is for toast.  T-O-A-S-T,”  I said, pointing to the bread to be extra clear, since I suspected the fever had burned off some of his more valuable brain cells.  “It’s dangerous to put your hand in a toas–”

He slapped his palm to his forehead.  On the grocery list on the fridge, he wrote “I DON’T THINK I CAN EAT TOAST.”meatball mac and cheese Toast is too scratchy, apparently.

So I made him some macaroni and cheese with mozzarella and mini meatballs.  I threw in three types of pasta for fun:  shells, wagon-wheels and curlywhatevers.  The meatballs I adapted from a recipe for Italian wedding soup.  I tossed everything with a quick mozzarella sauce, and then I sprinkled a light breadcrumb crust on top.meatball mac and cheese

I think Scott mimed “This is the most delicious mac and cheese I’ve ever had,” but when I asked him to act it out he looked at me like “ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW,” so I didn’t push it.

Mozzarella Mac & Cheese with Mini Meatballs {Download & Print Recipe}
by eggton
(meatballs adapted from this Kitchn recipe for Italian wedding soup; cheese sauce adapted from this recipe in the Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cookbook.)
I like to use a mix of pasta shapes in my macaroni and cheese.  I cook them in the same pot if they have similar cooking times.  One type may be a little more done than the other but since it’ s all getting baked anyway, I don’t mind.


For the meatballs:

3/4 lb. meatloaf mix (which is a mix of ground beef ground pork.  You could also buy 1/2 lb. beef and 1/4 lb. pork, or use all beef if you don’t eat pork.)

1/2 c. seasoned breadcrumbs

1 egg

1/2 c. grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

1/4 c. ricotta cheese (either whole milk or part skim)

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. pepper

2 Tbsp. olive oil

For the macaroni & cheese:

1 lb. pasta

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) + 2 Tbsp. butter, divided

8 Tbsp. flour

1 c. milk (I prefer whole milk)

1 c. cream

2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

1/2 tsp. salt

2 c. Panko breadcrumbs


Put a pot of salted water up to boil for the pasta.

In the meantime, make the meatballs.  Combine all meatball ingredients except the olive oil in a large bowl and mix with your hands until evenly combined.  Rinse your hands and leave them slightly wet.  Tweak off a piece of the meatball mix and roll into a 1″ to 1 1/2″ ball between your hands.  Try to handle them lightly so they don’t toughen up while cooking. (Wetting your hands a little helps with this.)  Place the meatballs on a plate as you finish them.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the meatballs in the skillet and cook until they’re browned on the sides and cooked through to your liking.  Place a double layer of paper towels on a plate and use a slotted spoon to transfer the meatballs to the paper plate.  Set the meatballs aside while you prepare the macaroni.

Then, make the macaroni: When the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta.  Cook until al dente.  Drain and set the pasta aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Make the cheese sauce:  Melt 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) of the butter with the flour in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk until evenly combined and cook for 1 minute.   Add the milk and the cream and cook, whisking often to get rid of clumps, for about 5 minutes or until it’s thick.  Reduce the heat and add the cheese and salt.   Stir until the cheese is melted and then turn off the heat.

Butter a 9 x 13″ baking dish or the equivalent.  Add the pasta and meatballs to the saucepan with the cheese sauce (or add them all to a big bowl) and toss until evenly combined.  Pour the mixture into the baking dish.   Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and mix it into the Panko with your fingers.  Spread the Panko mixture evenly over the macaroni and cheese.  Bake at least 10 minutes, or until the topping is a deep golden brown.  Serve.


thunder monitors the kaleSometimes I understand Thunder better than Scott.  For example, here she’s thinking, “UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, I WILL BE MONITORING THE CRAP OUT OF THIS KALE.”

25 Comments Post a comment
  1. I hope that your delicious pasta helps him to feel better… I think so!

    February 13, 2014
    • I think it did the trick. He seems to feel better today, and he’s definitely a lot better at using his words! (Whew.)

      February 13, 2014
  2. This is the most delicious mac and cheese I’ve never had. I aim to change that soon!

    Best wishes to Scott for a speedy recovery. Also, I love Thunder’s I’m-monitoring-kale face.

    February 13, 2014
    • I love that face, too. She gets very curious when I photograph things. I think there’s a bit of Pavlovian conditioning going on–whenever I put something down on that coffee table now she assumes it’s food (and she’s usually right).

      February 13, 2014
  3. Poor Scott – I feel bad for the laughs I had at his expense while reading your post. I think the breadcrumbs were a little perverse of you – but I don’t blame you for not being able to help yourself. ha ha! 😉

    February 13, 2014
    • Ha! I guess I managed to work some crumbled up toast in there, didn’t I? Terrible.

      February 13, 2014
  4. A very unusual recipe for illness control. Hope you feel better!

    February 13, 2014
    • Indeed—it’s not quite the same as chicken noodle soup, is it? We like to shake things up over here. (And I’m better at pasta than soup. Shhhh.)

      February 13, 2014
  5. 1. Curlywhatevers.
    2. Toast is definitely too scratchy.
    3. Yes to everything in this post.

    February 13, 2014
  6. When i get sick, will you come make this for me??? 🙂

    February 13, 2014
  7. Shalee #

    You freaking make me laugh out loud with every single post! I’m usually at work so everyone looks at me like i have lost my mind (which I have). Thank you for making me laugh and smile.

    February 13, 2014
  8. I will be monitoring the hell of this blog. You crack me up.

    February 13, 2014
  9. This looks GOOD!!! I’ve been having a major cheese moment lately, and this is JUST what I want!

    February 13, 2014
  10. I think using a variety of pasta shapes in mac and cheese sounds delightful. I’ll have to try that soon (maybe the next time I’m sick…).

    February 13, 2014
  11. jenny_o #

    Poor Scott – hope he feels better quickly. Your interpretation of Thunder’s expression is, as usual, hilarious 🙂

    February 13, 2014
  12. Hope Scott rely better, but this certainly got me chuckling over my breakfast blog reading this morning!!!

    February 14, 2014
  13. I’m a complete grump today. I hate Valentine’s Day.
    This is the only blog I wanted to read, K. And thank the gods for that. I want you to be my mom and make wonderful, meat-bally mac & cheese when my lungs fill up with sewage! And I want to watch Thunder commune with the kale! (Ah, yes, my little green friends. I hear your vegetable siren song and feel your pain.)
    I hope Scott appreciates what he’s got!

    February 14, 2014
  14. Whoa, that is some seriously good-lookin mac and cheese. Feel better Scott!

    February 14, 2014
  15. sue ellen #

    Thank you…Thank you…Thank you ♥ You always put a smile in my heart and a recipe in my mind. May Scott be back to his wonderful self by now.
    You are a treasure my sweet !!!!

    February 14, 2014
  16. Thunder looks entirely edible herself! You are so lucky you don’t have a fellow who gets ‘man flu’ every time his nose is stuffy, or he has *gasp!* a headache.

    February 14, 2014
  17. 1. Toast IS scratchy, Katherine.
    2. I like that you basically put the toast that Scott refused on top of the mac & cheese. Also, I want meatballs in my mac & cheese from now on.
    3. I hope that Scott is feeling better, and that whatever super virus took that genetically modified ox down isn’t coming for you.
    4. Should that occur, I’m wondering if Scott will prepare toast for you…

    February 15, 2014
  18. Oh man, hope Scott feels better soon! I can’t believe he was up for pasta (with crumbly… scratchy?! stuff on top?) rather than just some kind of smooth/pureed soup situation, but that does look delicious…

    February 16, 2014
  19. kale is notoriously sneaky – good job Thunder is on to it!

    February 21, 2014
  20. Thunder is too cute. She looks so thoughtful. Next time I’m sick, I’m coming to your place. You’re dishing out royal treatment.

    February 22, 2014
  21. Mac and cheese has curative properties. It’s a well known fact. When Thunder is through monitoring that kale, perhaps you could chop it up, saute it a little bit and add it into the restorative casserole for even more nutrition and flavor. Just a thought.

    February 25, 2014

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