Cheese-stuffed mac ’n’ cheese pie: $1.26/slice

I suppose I should preface this post by stating the obvious, given the meal: I’m pregnant. Four months pregnant, to be exact. (For those who’ve seen me in person and wondered how I managed to get quite a beer belly* from eating bread, fruit and mostly vegetarian meals, now you know.) Am I still making it on $35 a week? For the most part, yes. I’m still espousing the principles, baking all my own bread, growing my own food, and making all my own meals, I’m just eating a little more of them, and occasionally making things like this. It basically takes care of all the pregnancy cravings in one go: pie, macaroni and cheese, caramelized onions, and, to top it all off, goat cheese. (As anyone who’s been pregnant recently knows, listeria danger precludes you from having soft cheeses like goat, blue or brie unless they’re heated, leaving very few opportunities for one to get her fix.) In a way, I’m a little sorry I brought something like this into existence because, pregnant or not, I could eat it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never get tired of it. I’m sorry I brought it to your attention as well, because once you try it, your life will never be the same.

*In the ever-growing list of indignities associated with pregnancy, in my mind most other pregnant women look like this, while I get to look like this (minus the beer).

Recipe adapted from Food52. It makes 6 normal-person servings or 4 pregnancy servings, and is terrific as leftovers. Also, the herbed topping really makes the dish, so don’t omit it if you don’t have the herbs; used dried if you have to. (In about a 1-to-3 ratio, since dried herbs are stronger).

Special equipment:
-9-inch pie pan
-Rolling pin

For the crust:
• 1 1/2 cups flour: 15 cents
• 6 T cold butter, cut up into cubes: 36 cents
• 6 T cold milk: 10 cents
• 1/2 tsp salt: 1 cent
For the topping and filling:
•  2 cups sharp cheddar, grated: $2.20
• 4 oz. goat cheese: $2.49
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan: 50 cents
•  1/2 cup panko bread crumbs: 50 cents
• 2 tsp chopped fresh sage (garden): $0
• 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (garden): $0
• 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves (garden): $0
• 2 T fresh chopped parsley (garden): $0
• 1 large onion, thinly sliced pole-to-pole: 20 cents
• 6 T butter: 36 cents
•  8 oz. small macaroni (this is cheapest in the Mexican-foods section): 30 cents
• 2 cups milk: 32 cents
• 1 tsp dry mustard: 3 cents
• 4 T flour: 3 cents
• Salt and pepper: 2 cents
TOTAL: $7.57/6 = $1.26/slice

Mix together the flour and salt for the crust. Add the cold butter and cut into the flour with a pastry cutter (or two knives) until evenly distributed and the texture is pebbly. Add milk just until a cohesive dough forms. Turn out onto a floured cutting board and pat into a disc.

Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours. 

When the time is up, put it back on the floured cutting board and roll it into a large circle big enough to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Carefully move the dough to the pie pan (you can wrap it around the rolling pin, lift it, and drop it over the pan, as I do) and press it in gently. Flute the edges as best you can.

At this point, if you want a crisper crust, I recommend blind-baking it: Preheat the oven to 425 F. Prick the bottom with a fork, line with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or old beans (I have a bag of designated “pie beans” I use and reuse for this very purpose). Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 375 F, and cook for a few more minutes until golden. Remove and set aside.

If you don’t care about a crisp crust and/or don’t want to blind-bake, put the pie pan and the dough in the freezer. (This will keep the crust from shrinking when it does bake with the filling in it.) This is what I did, but in hindsight I wish I had blind-baked it.

For the topping: Mix the panko bread crumbs, herbs, Parmesan, and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the onions: Heat 2 T butter in a medium skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until light brown and fully caramelized, about 30 minutes. (Deglaze the pan with water if the onion starts to stick at any point.) Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water a few minutes before the package directions say to (mine said 9 minutes; I cooked for about 6). Drain, rinse, and set aside.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the 4 T butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook until a medium-brown roux has formed. Slowly stir in the milk. Add the mustard powder and salt and pepper to taste, cook until simmering and thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese. Fold in the macaroni.

Pour half the macaroni and cheese in the bottom of the pie shell (blind-baked or not). Spread the caramelized onions over the top…

…followed by the goat cheese (crumbled).

Pour the other half of the macaroni and cheese over the top, followed by the crisp topping.

Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes until filling is bubbly and topping is browned if you already-blind baked the crust, taking care to ensure the crust edges don’t burn. (Cover them with foil or pie shields if you’re worried.)

If you didn’t blind-bake the crust (as I didn’t), bake at 375 F for 30-40 minutes, until edges of crust are cooked and lightly browned. You may have to cover the top with foil to keep the topping from burning.

Let sit for a few minutes before slicing.

18 responses to “Cheese-stuffed mac ’n’ cheese pie: $1.26/slice

  1. a) Congrats!
    b) This… Looks amazing. Like, beyond amazing. This is being put towards the top of the to-try list. Just need to find a good gluten-free pie crust!

  2. congratulations!!! i’m preggers too, 3 months along, and i love the pictures of “other pregnant women” vs “real self-image” too true!

    i too was told not to eat soft cheeses unless they’re pasturized so i’ve just been keeping away from them all together. i didn’t realize you can eat them as long as they’re heated enough! hmmmm this changes some things!

    not only do i get great affordable recipes from you (i too am a mac’n’cheese addict) but i learn something new as well! thanks!

    • Congrats to you too! Most commercial goat cheeses available in the non-fancy area of the supermarket are actually pasteurized (the kind I used was), but I still heat them anyway because I’m super-paranoid.

  3. Reblogged this on A Zombie, Learning to Wife and commented:
    i can’t wait to make this!! i was under the impression that i couldn’t eat soft cheese at all, being pregnant, unless they are pasteurized. but it makes sense that since this is do to the listeria that may be present, cooking it would kill that as it kills other bacteria! i’m going to run it by my ob nurse first but i’m sure she’ll say it’s all good in the hood! and i’m a mac ‘n’ cheese ADDICT so this really has me excited! if you try it first, let me know how it turns out!

  4. Congratulations! (And just in case nobody’s told you, you’re heading into what’s usually the good part of pregnancy – no more morning sickness and stuff like that.) And yes, this sounds veerrrryy good!

  5. Congratulations!

    I’m surprised you’re using store-bought bread crumbs rather than home-made! Or is there a reason why this recipe really requires the panko variety?

    • Glad you brought that up–I HATE soggy bread-crumb topping on mac ‘n’ cheese, and only panko ensures it will stay super-crispy the whole time, even as leftovers.

      • That’s interesting, I’ll have to try that. Does it works as well for breading stuff that will be deep-fried?

      • It does, actually—I recently tried it with tofu, and it was amazing. There really is no substitute when you want something really crisp.

      • I did a little googling and it seems to be heavily debated wheter panko (which in Japanese just means bread crumbs) is anything different or better than other breadcrumbs. According to some, store-bought panko is made by electrocuting the dough and that’s something I won’t try at home. I guess I’ll just have to experiment to find out.

      • Whoa! I didn’t know that. The flakes of the brand I buy are very thin and wide—I wonder if the shape has something to do with it, and if I just used coarser homemade breadcrumbs, it’d have the same effect. Definitely looking into this.

      • A famous Dutch pastry chef wrote a book when he retired, and he claims that you should make your own bread crumbs in your food processor and then sieve them to obtain two kinds: fine and coarse bread crumbs. He says for a crunchy deep-fried crust you have to bread with fine first and then again with coarse. I haven’t tried this yet, as I don’t do a lot of deep-frying and I’ve only had this book for a few months.

      • I never would’ve thought to sift my bread crumbs. What a phenomenal idea—thank you!

  6. Congrats!!! That’s so awesome!

    This looks fantastic, though I’m a little intimidated by the pie crust. I might just nix it and go for baked mac n cheese until I can practice my pie-making.

    • Thanks! Don’t be afraid of the crust—I hate baking and am probably the world’s worst pie-crust maker; I just throw stuff together without blind-baking or caring what it looks like. Thankfully, even when your crust looks terrible, no one notices when it’s filled with stuff like mac ‘n’ cheese.

  7. AAAH! Congratulations on your pregnancy! I love anything baked into a pie crust, and macaroni and cheese sounds like the best filling ever! I am not pregnant, but now have SUCH a craving for this pie.

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