Rainy Day Pasta

After over 3 months without a drop of rain, we finally are having a few stormy days. A strong wind blew in big, dark clouds, which burst open in a torrential downpour. It may seem silly to people who are currently going through what is commonly known as “winter,” but it is actually quite refreshing and wonderful. For once we can spend time in the trailer without fighting over who is going to sit directly in front of the fan. Our eyes get a break from the strong, harsh sunshine. We get to pull out our sweatshirts and even the down comforter.

Best of all, cooking once again becomes an exciting, enjoyable activity. I have to admit that lately we have been taking full advantage of Sayulita’s many great restaurants. Like the pizza place across the street that has a large, wood-fired pizza for $6 and lets you bring your own wine. Or the taco stand that sells fresh, juicy carnitas tacos for $0.50 with all the fixings. Or the aguachile, which is shrinp and cucumbers marinated in lime and chile.

I’m getting off subject, (and a little hungry) but you get the idea. Let’s just say we are making up for almost never eating out in the first 3 months of our trip. It’s just that when the afternoon sun is beating down on the trailer and you add heat from the stove, it makes it almost unbearable to cook, even with the fan.

So when Matt came home with a chunk of smoked ham and challenged me to make macaroni and cheese in one pot and with minimal leftovers, I readily agreed. The results turned out so well that I thought I’d brag, errr, uhm, I mean blog about it. The sauce was creamy without being too heavy and rich. The veggie-to-pasta ratio was nice and high to keep it relatively healthy. You can vary the veggies to suit your tastes, but I loved how colorful it turned out! It was fast, easy, and everyone loved it. So here is the recipe for everyone who needs a little rainy day comfort food without a lot of dishes.

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Broccoli, Mushroom and Red Pepper Mac and Cheese

  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 pound pasta
  • 1/3 cup dried mushrooms
  • ½ white or yellow onion, diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small head of broccoli, including stems, chopped to ½ inch
  • ½ red pepper, diced small
  • 1 cup mushrooms, diced large
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup diced ham (ours was smoked but it doesn’t have to be)
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar or other melty cheese.
  • 1-2 tablespoons shredded parmesan, optional
  • Salt, pepper, and nutmeg

First, heat your milk in a medium saucepan. When hot, pour into a thermos for later use. I used my awesome Hydroflask coffee mug. Put water in the same pot to boil for pasta. Take out two bowls that you will use for serving the pasta. In one, put the dried mushrooms. When the water is boiling, first take half a cup of the boiling water and pour it over the dried mushrooms in the bowl. Then add pasta and salt to the water in the pot. Cook until al dente, drain, toss with a little olive oil, and put in the second bowl.

Meanwhile, prep the veggies. When the pasta is done, wipe out any pasta residue in the pot, and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, sauté a few minutes to soften, add the broccoli, sauté a few minutes more, then add the rest of the fresh veggies. Sauté another 3 minutes until softened a bit, but not cooked through. Add the flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the hot milk and hot mushrooms, including the water. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with your spoon to get up all the flour. Add a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Reduce the heat to low and cook about 10 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally. Add the ham, pasta, and cheese and let melt. Taste for seasonings. Enjoy!

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