In all my years of catering and cooking, I've learned this lesson: If they don't like a certain dish, don't give it to them. It's just not worth the effort. My motto is: Give them what they want. I call it "baby food." When I catered for Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, etc., I would always have a children's menu with plenty of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and the like. There's no fighting and everyone likes the food.

Macaroni and Cheese is a great "baby food." Almost everyone likes it. My mother served great macaroni and cheese -- real cheesy and we could always count on a good bowl of tomato soup to go with it. We would crush Ritz crackers into the soup.

When the kids grew up, they ate everything. Somehow it all works.

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is the recipe I make in the yeshiva all the time.

  • 1/2 lb. boiled macaroni
  • 1 cup yellow cheese
  • 2 tbsps. Butter




  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsps. Butter
  • 2 tbsps. Flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper


Heat milk. Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add flour, stirring constantly. Stir in hot milk gradually and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Season to taste.

Mix white sauce, macaroni and 3/4 cup of the cheese. Place in buttered baking dish, sprinkle top with remaining cheese and dot with butter. Bake 15 minutes in hot oven, 400°F.

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Spicy Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsps. minced pickled hot peppers
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsps. ground cumin
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 28-oz. can plum tomatoes, the juice discarded and the tomatoes chopped and drained well
  • Cayenne to taste if desired
  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated parmesan cheese (about 6 ozs.)
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ozs.)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs

In a heavy saucepan cook the onion, the garlic, the hot peppers, the coriander, and the cumin in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, stir in the flour, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the milk in a stream, whisking, bringing the liquid to a boil, whisiking, and whisk in the tomatoes. Simmer the mixture for 2 minutes and add the cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.

In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the macaroni for 6-7 minutes, or until it is barely al dente, drain it well, and in a large bowl combine it with the tomato mixture. Stir in the mozzarella and transfer the mixture to a buttered 13- to 14- by 9-in. shallow baking dish or a 3-quart gratin dish. In a bowl stir together the bread crumbs and the parmesan, sprinkle the mixture evenly over the macaroni mixture, and bake the macaroni and cheese in the middle of a preheated 375°F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until it is golden and bubbling.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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Baked Ziti with Mushrooms, Peppers and Parmesan

  • 3 large yellow bell peppers (about 1 1/2 lbs.)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 lbs. mushrooms
  • 2 medium red bell peppers
  • 2 medium orange bell peppers
  • 1 lb. ziti
  • 8 scallions (green part only)
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan (about 6 ozs.)

Chop yellow bell peppers and onion and mince garlic. In a 3- to 4-qt. heavy saucepan cook yellow peppers, onion, and garlic in 1 tbsp. oil, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until peppers are soft, about 30 minutes. Stir in cream. In a blender puree mixture in batches (use caution when blending hot liquids), transferring to a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper. (Sauce may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring sauce to room temperature before proceeding.)

Thinly slice mushrooms lengthwise and cut red and orange bell peppers into 1/4-in.-wide strips. In a deep large heavy skillet cook mushrooms and peppers in remaining 2 tbsps. oil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until peppers are softened and most of liquid is evaporated, about 8 minutes, and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Fill a 6- to 7-quart kettle three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil. Stir in ziti and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water and drain ziti well in a colander. Rinse ziti and drain well. Thinly slice scallion greens. Into sauce stir ziti, mushroom mixture, scallion greens, 1 1/2 cups parmesan, reserved cooking water, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon mixture into a 3-quart shallow baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup parmesan.

Bake ziti in middle of oven until hot and pasta begins to brown, about 20 minutes.

Makes 8-10 servings.

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Baked Ziti with Spinach and Tomatoes

  • 3/4 lb. hot ground soy
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 28-oz. can diced peeled tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup pestoli
  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tbsps. crushed garlic
  • 10 ozs. ziti or penne pasta (about 3 cups), freshly cooked
  • 8 cups ready-to-use spinach leaves (about 2/3 of 10.oz. package)
  • 6 ozs. mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 3 ozs.)

To prepare basil pesto: Chop 1/2 cup basil leaves, add 2 tbsps. crushed garlic and 2 tbsps. olive oil. Mix in blender.

Heat heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add soy, onion, and garlic and saute until soy is cooked through, breaking up soy with back of spoon, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes with juices to pan. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in pesto. Season sauce with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil 13 x 9-in. glass baking dish. Combine pasta, spinach, mozzarella and 1/3 cup parmesan cheese in large bowl. Stir in hot tomato sauce. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup parmesan cheese over. Bake until sauce bubbles and cheese melt, about 30 minutes.

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Oven-Baked Ziti with Cheeses

  • 2 tbsps. Oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • tsp. fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 15-oz. container ricotta cheese or cottage cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 8 ozs. mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 12 ozs. fresh cooked ziti or other macaroni

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, garlic and fennel seeds and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Mix in tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, water and oregano. Simmer until mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter 9 x 13-in. glass baking dish. In medium bowl combine ricotta (or cottage) cheese and egg. Reserve 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese for topping. Add remaining mozzarella to ricotta cheese mixture and blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix 1/4 cup parmesan cheese with pasta. Combine all ingredients. Top with remaining cheese. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

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Upscale Macaroni and Cheese

  • 2 tbsps. (1/4 stick) butter
  • 3 large red bell peppers (about 1 1/2 lbs.), cut into 1/2-in. pieces
  • 5 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1 lb. cottage cheese
  • 1 tsp. celery seeds
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 1 lb. penne
    • 3/4 cup freshly grated cheese of your choice (about 2 ozs.)

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and celery and saute until just beginning to soften, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine cream, half and half and cottage cheese in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until cheese melts. Remove from heat. Add celery seeds. Season sauce with cayenne, salt and pepper. Beat yolks in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in half of cheese sauce. Return mixture to saucepan and whisk to blend. Add celery leaves.

Butter 13 3/4 x 10 1/2 x 2 3/4-in. (4-qt. capacity) oval baking dish. Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return to same pot. Add sauce and vegetables; stir to blend. Transfer to baking dish. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle cheese over surface of pasta. Bake until pasta is heated through, sauce is bubbling and top is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.

Makes 12 servings.

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Macaroni and Cheese with Garlic Bread Crumbs, Plain and Chipotle


  • 2 tbsps. unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • 2-3 tbsps. chopped hot chili peppers
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. dry mustard
  • 1 lb. macaroni
  • 2 lbs. any cheese, grated


Heat butter and oil in a 10-in. heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook garlic and bread crumbs, stirring, until crumbs are golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt.


Preheat oven to 350°F. Chop peppers. Melt butter in 3- to 4-qt. saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, cream, and mustard and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Cook macaroni in a 6- to 7- qt. pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in white sauce, cheese, and salt to taste.

Fill a 1 1/2 qt. shallow casserole with half of macaroni mixture. Stir peppers into remaining macaroni. Spoon into another 1 1/2 qt. shallow casserole and sprinkle both with bread crumbs. Bake casseroles in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until bubbly.


Macaroni and cheese may be made 2 days ahead, put into casseroles, cooled completely, and chilled, covered. Do not add bread crumbs until ready to bake. (Baking may take longer than 30 minutes.)

Makes 8 adult servings plus 10 children servings as part of a buffet.

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