For me, always a lover of green, my ideal comfort dish would be a fusion of creamy broccoli cheddar soup (in a bread bowl), and a rich baked macaroni and cheese. I’m sure some Midwestern mother took this combination literally back in the 70’s, and answered my dreams with a heavenly cream of broccoli casserole. But since Anna was once put off by dishes that contained green, I wasn’t going to push the envelope by serving her a plate of pasta that actually was green. Restraint paid off, and the classic white cheddar sauce was as enhanced by the addition of crunchy broccoli as the pasta shells were by a healthy trip to the broiler.
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar (10oz)
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups finely cut broccoli florets (about 1lb with stems)
- 1 lb conchiglie (medium shells)
- Preheat the oven to broil.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
- In a large oven-proof skillet or casserole dish, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until fully incorporated, about two minutes. Add the milk and whisk over a high flame until the mixture has bubbled and thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
- Once the water has boiled, blanche the broccoli until just barely tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
- Bring the water back up to a boil and add the pasta. Cook pasta according to the package instructions until two minutes shy of al dente. The pasta should still have a bite to it.
- Add the all the cheese except for a small hand-full to the milk mixture and whisk until fully combined. Taste cheese sauce for seasoning. Stir in the broccoli florets and the pasta. Distribute evenly throughout the skillet or dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
- Broil the dish for 5 or so minutes, until the sides are bubbling and the top has browned. Serve immediately with a side salad.