This post has been sponsored by San Giorgio®. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I’ve never met someone who can resist a steaming tray of the ultimate comfort food: mac and cheese. It’s as perfect as simple cheddar and pasta, but can also be downright elegant. Today we are making one of my staples, Seafood Mac and Cheese, using San Giorgio® Cavatappi from your local Giant.
Seafood Mac and Cheese can be served as a standalone main dish or as a side dish. It is fancy enough for special occasions, but also simple enough for a potluck.
Seafood Mac and Cheese Recipe
Mac and cheese, at its core, is an uncomplicated dish made with three basic elements, sometimes even just two.
- Cheese sauce
- Mix-ins, these are optional, but encouraged
Because of the simplicity, it is essential to use quality ingredients for the cheese and the pasta. From there, add-ins are encouraged, but for a seafood mac and cheese, certainly essential.
Pick Your Pasta
Making sure you have a quality pasta with lots of nooks and crannies to hold a velvety sauce is the trick for a quality baked mac and cheese. I visited my local Giant and grabbed a box of San Giorgio® Cavatappi from the pasta aisle and I was set!
Cavatappi is a pasta shape native to Southern Italy, where both my husband and I have roots, and quite literally translates to “corkscrews”. We prefer the San Giorgio® brand because they use a special flour blend to ensure the perfect al dente texture prime for baked pasta recipes.
Alternative choices for the best pasta for mac and cheese would be:
Cheese Sauce (Roux)
A classic roux, one of the five mother sauces, is the base for any cheese sauce regardless of what you are serving it on—a dip, pasta or even nachos. It starts as equal parts butter and flour, milk is added to thin it out and then, of course, comes the cheese!
I like the budget friendly price tag of white cheddar combined with the nuttiness of parmesan, but feel free to use any combo you’d like. In fact, this is a good time to clean out the cheese drawer.
Other favorites include:
- Smoked gruyère
- Sharp cheddar
- Parmesan Reggiano
While seafood mac and cheese sounds fancy (and expensive), I can assure you anyone can make it. But how?
Well, we use the small seafood! You are actually aiming for tiny, bite-sized pieces and those little bits don’t break the bank, especially bay scallops or salad shrimp. Use any blend you want and don’t be too pressured by the total weight, as long as it is around 1 pound, give or take.
Other seafood options include:
- Crab meat- king crab, blue crab or even imitation
- Large shrimp- cut into smaller pieces
- Large scallops- cut into smaller pieces
- Squid (calamari)
Seafood seasoning lends itself, because, well, it is seafood! There are many custom blends out and thus, I highly recommend that you taste test it first to judge the saltiness and then make informed decisions of whether you want to use the full amount.
Creole or Cajun seasonings are also fabulous choices if you want to introduce a little heat. And if you are aiming for great flavor, but a neutral palette, just skip the seasoning and keep the nutmeg, which is a match made in flavor heaven for any type of dairy.
More mac and cheese recipes:
Make sure to grab San Giorgio® Cavatappi and the other ingredients needed to make this dish at your local Giant!
Seafood Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese:
- 1 pound (16 oz) San Giorgio® Cavatappi
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup white onion , chopped
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk*
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon seafood seasoning
- 3 cups white cheddar cheese , shredded and divided
- 1 cup parmesan cheese , shredded and divide
- 1 pound seafood , cooked
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.
- In a large saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions for 1 minute less than it instructs for al dente. Drain and set aside while cooking cheese sauce.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, sauteing for 2-3 minutes or until just softened and fragrant.
- Whisk in the flour until it forms a paste. Slowly whisk in the milk, nutmeg and seafood seasoning and bring to a low simmer. When bubbles start to form, remove from the heat.
- Off heat, whisk in 2 cups of the cheddar cheese and ¾ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Toss the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta and seafood. Transfer to baking dish. Set aside.
- In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the panko, seafood seasoning and white pepper, stirring until it is combined and lightly toasted. Panko should still be fairly dry and crumbly, not pasty.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheddar and ¼ cup Parmesan, then the panko topping over mac and cheese. Transfer the dish to the heated oven. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the edges are browned and bubbly.
- Remove and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Top with snipped chives or parsley for garnish.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back to let us know how it was in the comments or ratings!