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Rach describes this quick and easy casserole as a "mac and cheese—with trees!" It also has a crunchy cracker topping. YUM!
"I use broccolini because it's easier to break down," Rach says.
- 3 bundles broccolini , or 1 head broccoli
- 1 cup coarsely crushed butter crackers or cheddar-flavored crackers (such as Ritz or Cheez-Its)
- One handful flat parsley, finely chopped
- About 1½ cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- Salt and white pepper or fine black pepper
- About ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1½ cups vegetable or chicken stock, broth, or bone broth
- 1½ cups half-and-half
- 1 cup white cheddar
- 1 pound ribbed macaroni, ziti, penne or short-cut pasta of choice
Preheat oven to 400˚F with rack at center oven.
Bring 5 to 6 quarts of water to boil for pasta in large pot.
For broccolini, trim ends, halve larger pieces, and cut it into bite-sized pieces and florets. For broccoli, trim and cut into stalks, slice stalks into planks, cut planks into bite-sized batons or pieces, and cut florets into bite-sized pieces.
Crush crackers with your hands or in a large plastic bag with a mallet or rolling pin. Combine the crumbs in a bowl with parsley and about half of the grated Parm.
Peel and crush garlic or grate or chop.
In a sauce pan or deep skillet, heat EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium to medium-high heat, melt butter into oil and swirl in garlic 30 seconds, sprinkle in flour and whisk to bubble, add salt and pepper and nutmeg, then add stock or broth and half n half. Whisk to thicken a few minutes to thinly coat the back of a spoon, add cheddar and remaining Parm cheese.
Meanwhile, boil pasta 2 minutes less than package directions, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add broccolini or broccoli after 3 minutes. Reserve a half-cup of water, drain and return pasta and broccoli to the pot. Add all of the sauce and toss, use a splash of reserved pasta water if needed to thin. Toss 1 minute, then transfer to casserole dish, top with cracker mixture and bake to bubble and brown, 5 minutes or so. Cool a few minutes to serve.