BAKED MACARONI ‘N' 4-CHEESE WITH HOT DOG OR SAUSAGE OR CHICKEN BITES
- 1 (7 to 8-ounce) package elbow macaroni
- 1/3 cup chopped peeled onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped green pepper (optional)
- 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted (see note)
- 3 tablespoons flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 2 cups milk or reduced-fat or skim milk
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 2 tablespoons minced pimento, drained (optional)
- Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
- 8 to 12 ounces hot dogs (any variety) or smoked sausage of choice, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 cups (1 (8-ounce) package) shredded Country Casserole-style 4-Cheese Blend or Mexican-style
- 4-Cheese Blend or Nacho & Taco Cheese Blend, or a combination of shredded sharp Cheddar,
- American, Monterey Jack, and Muenster or Swiss cheeses, or 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar or
- American cheese, or 2 cups shredded reduced-fat cheese of choice
- ½ cup bread crumbs mixed with 1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine (optional)
Cook macaroni according to package directions, rinse in cold water, and drain thoroughly; set aside.
In a medium heavy saucepan, sauté onion and green pepper, if desired, in butter over moderate heat until just tender but not browned. Blend in flour, salt, and paprika. Stir in milk and mustard, blending well. Reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly hot. Stir in pimento and nutmeg, if desired.
Arrange one-half of the macaroni in the bottom of a greased 1½-quart casserole or baking dish. Top with one-half of the sauce, then one-half of the hot dogs or sausage, and then one-half of the cheese, spreading evenly. Repeat layers once more, ending with a layer of cheese. Bake, loosely covered with aluminum foil, in a preheated moderate oven (350 degrees F.) for 25 minutes; remove foil, evenly sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over casserole, if desired, and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until casserole is hot and bubbly.
Note: May stir cheese into hot sauce, if desired, blending over low heat until thoroughly mixed; layer sauce with macaroni and hotdog's or sausage as previously directed.
Note: To reduce fat content, may reduce butter or margarine to 1½ tablespoons, if desired.
Variations: Add 3 to 4 ounces sliced (or cut into bite-size pieces) Canadian-style bacon or 3 to 4 ounces fully-cooked smoked ham or Smithfield-style ham, cut into bite-size pieces, or 3 to 4 ounces drained sautéed/cooked crumbled pork sausage or mild or hot-spiced Italian sausage, or sautéed boneless chicken pieces to layers of sauce and cheese, dividing evenly, if desired.
Add 2 cored peeled firm ripe medium tomatoes, cut into thin wedges or small pieces, or 1 drained (14 to 16-ounce) can diced tomatoes, to layers of sauce and cheese, dividing evenly, if desired.
Add 8 ounces partially cooked thinly sliced or coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms or 1 drained (4.5-ounce jar/can (net wt.) sliced mushrooms to macaroni mixture.