Parmesan Shells and Cheese – Mac and Cheese for Adults

I had half a box of small shells, 7 ounces, to be exact, a few chunks of  Parmesan Reggiano in the fridge, had milk that had not gone bad (always a miracle) and wanted something with at least a feel of comfort food.  A big thank you from me to  Southern Food for providing the perfect meal!

For those with little patience when making a roux, I can tell you that you can rush through the process and not ruin things.  Fun fact about me:  one of the first things my Mom taught me to make was a traditional roux, albeit with regular salted butter rather than the even more traditional version made with clarified butter.  Years later, when I was vegan, I created many “creamy” textured dishes using a roux made with olive oil and non dairy “milks” or other liquids.  I’ll have to experiment with all that again and post about it.  But, in the meantime, back to this post!

For the original recipe, click HERE.

Here is how I did it – just a few variations (one of which, I just realized, I did not mention when I reviewed the original recipe on  I forgot to mention that I added grated carrot.)

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 7 ounces small shell macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 1/4 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
  • paprika, optional – acutally, I forgot about it, but I would have used it had I remembered at the end!


In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in flour, cooking until hot and bubbly, about 1 minute.

This is NOT how it is supposed to look!

Gradually stir in chicken broth and milk. Add the salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbly.

Still looking scary.
De-lumping techniques that my mother never taught me. 🙂

Stir in the Parmesan cheese and continue to cook and stir until cheese is melted.  Then add the grated carrot.

See, it all ended up nice and creamy with no lumps. :=)

Meanwhile, cook the shells in boiling salted water as directed on package. Drain well and add to the sauce mixture, blending well.

My volume (versus depth) perception was not working. Would they fit?????
They fit - easily!

Transfer to a lightly buttered 2-quart baking dish. Combine bread crumbs with melted butter and parsley flakes; sprinkle over the casserole.

ready for the oven. I forgot to take a pic after it was done.

Bake at 325° for 25 to 35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with paprika before serving, if desired.
Serves 4 to 6.

This was really good. Nice flavor and texture – not as gooey, perhaps, as some may prefer, but it was creamy enough for me, and Steve liked it a lot, too.

And, I can’t say that I ever made a recipe that called, specifically, for “soft”  bread crumbs, or, if I did, I just used regular dry ones…So, how to make?  I had some whole wheat bread in the fridge, so I tore it up and put it in the toaster oven at 250 degrees for a 10 or so minutes, then crumbled it up more by hand and let it sit a bit longer.

Still too squishy.
There, good enough! A bit of crunch but still a bit soft.

And, here is a good tip:  Melt the butter in the microwave in a container big enough for the breadcrumbs, then add the breadcrumbs and seasonings to the butter.  If you don’t use a microwave, melt the butter stove top in a pan big enough for the breadcrumbs.

Nuke the butter for 20 seconds or so - keep an eye on it! Then add crumbs.

To end with a more attractive picture, here is the chopped fresh parsley that I used.  🙂

Parsley, parsley!