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Susie’s Crunchy Topped Cheese & Mac



– 1 2.1- to 2.2-ounce package Real California cheesy protein puffs* – 1 pound penne pasta – 8 tablespoons (1 stick) Real California unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the baking dish – 1/4 cup all-purpose flour – 4 cups Real California milk – 1 teaspoon salt – 1/2 teaspoon pepper – 8 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded Real California white sharp Cheddar cheese, divided – 8 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded Real California Monterey Jack cheese, divided – 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika *For example, In Good Hands Protein Puffs. :Protein Puffs, In Good Hands, Cheesy, Mac & Cheese, Protein
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Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

In a food processor, process protein puffs to the texture of panko or coarse breadcrumbs. Set aside. Lightly butter a 3- to 4-quart baking dish and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Also while pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons butter. Whisk in flour. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the saucepan almost constantly, until mixture slightly thickens, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add salt, pepper, 3/4 of Cheddar cheese, and 3/4 of Jack cheese, stirring to melt cheese. Set aside.

Drain pasta and transfer to prepared dish. Pour cheese mixture over pasta. Sprinkle with remaining Cheddar cheese and Jack cheese. Top with Protein Puffs and paprika. Dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and bake until lightly browned on top and heated through, about 30 minutes. Serves 8 to 10.

Notes: Optionally, after adding the sauce, add a layer of sliced tomatoes.

To freeze the cheese and mac, bake in a foil or a good-quality ceramic baking dish for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then freeze in the dish. When ready to serve, defrost and bake at 350°F until browned on top and heated through, 20 to 60 minutes depending on the baking dish and the internal temperature of the defrosted casserole.

Recipe courtesy of Susan Robbins Namerow and image by Jill Silverman Hough for the CMAB