Kitchen Smackdown, Family Style

Today the church music ministry held its annual cookoff. This year’s twist? Take a firefighter favorite recipe, make it your own, and submit it for judging by actual firefighters. Mama, sis, and yours truly all entered–different categories, as it turns out–and brought home two wins! My mother is an excellent cook, so I was not surprised at all when her version of Low Tide Chicken won first place in the main dish category. I was a little surprised to hear my name called for best side dish, though, considering the number of people who chose the same recipe to fix. Sis didn’t win for the chocolate awesomeness that was her dessert–with hand-whipped cream, no less–but she said if she had won, people would have suspected a fix.

Enjoy this one, but be advised that mimi uses real butter and lots of it.

mimi’s Italian Mac and Cheese

1 pkg. mild Italian sausage, casings removed

8 oz. baby portobella mushrooms, sliced

2 sticks butter

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 pint half and half

1 cup milk

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic

1 tbsp. minced garlic

1 tbsp. dried minced onion

1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes

Italian seasoning to taste

1 can diced Italian-style tomatoes, drained

1 lb. pasta (I used corkscrews)

2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

Crumble and brown sausage in a large, deep frying pan. Drain and set aside. Sauté mushrooms in a little extra butter until browned; set aside. Wipe out pan. Over medium heat, melt both sticks of butter and make a roux with flour; when smooth, begin adding half and half and milk about a half-cup at a time, stirring after each addition to completely incorporate. Stir in soups until smooth. Add salt, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning; stir and adjust seasonings as desired. Add sausage, mushrooms, and tomatoes; stir to combine and reduce heat to low.

While sauce is simmering, preheat oven to 325°. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and place in a 9×13 baking dish. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix evenly. Cover with cheese and top with bread crumbs. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly.

WARNING: This is a very effective butter-to-hip delivery system, so try not to hurt yourself!

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