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by DDR, added on April 7, 2021, 11:30 p.m.
A very, very straight-forward meal, filling the same niche as Kraft Dinner but without any preservatives or coloring. Similar clean-up, < 5 min.
Pasta (any shape will do, although higher surface area is better)
Salt (optional, recommended)
1 block parmesan cheese, eg, Tre Stelle from Costco. (Substitute Kraft pre-grated if need be. This is the main flavor component, so pick a cheese you like.)
Optional: garlic oil, black pepper, fatty sausages (fried separately)
Overview: We will make pasta, and use the water from that to make a smooth cheese sauce.
01. In a pot, add salt and just enough water to boil the pasta in.
02. Bring the salted water to a boil.
03. Add the pasta, cook to the point of being very, very firm. We will soften it up later.
04. Drain the pasta with the kid of the pot, keeping a cup or two of the water for the sauce. The pasta should be largely in the pot and the water largely out of it the end of this.
05. NOTE: It is advisable to have a canned red sauce in your pantry, as it's surprisingly hard to remember to reserve the water sometimes. You cannot make this meal good without the pasta water, so you can switch to "pasta with red sauce" and pretend like that was your plan all along this way.
06. Turning the stove to a medium-low heat, put the drained pasta back on it.
07. Keeping the pasta wet, grate in some cheese and stir. Repeat until you find yourself with a cheese sauce. This usually takes me about 5 minutes or so, since you want to wind up evaporating about a cup of water in the pasta. During this process, add any of the optional ingredients you want/have.
08. NOTE: I believe the starch and cheese combine to make the smooth texture of the sauce. This takes a lot of stirring. As the pasta will get a bit drier, and the cheese will melt, no emulsifier is needed.
09. During this process, the pasta will soften up quite a bit, so you do want to start with a firm noodle.
10. I usually use about 5-10 splashes of water when making this for myself, adding whenever the noodles start to get dry or I hear sizzling. I will add cheese in two or three steps, usually quite heavily. Basically, go until it tastes good to you. You'll need more of the ingredients if you're making a larger batch of pasta, and will probably have to add it in more batches too. Taste as you go and you should be fine. I think you're usually looking at about 1-2 cups of grated, unpacked cheese per serving. Probably ≤1 cup if granulated.
11. End result should be quite wet, but not greasy. The pasta will be thirsty and will soak up a lot of fluid by the end of the meal.
12. Portion out and top with more cheese and optionally black pepper.
14. After eating, pot, lid, and tableware may be easily hand-washed or put into the dishwasher.
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