At a freezer meal swap I participated in recently, my good friend Haley brought this delicious homemade macaroni and cheese casserole to share. (You might remember Haley from this video we were in for the Grocery Outlet YouTube channel a few months ago!) Unlike just plain old cheese and noodles, hers had chicken sausage, vegetables, and a breadcrumb topping. It was perfect comfort food!
I loved the idea of elevating an old standby dinner - macaroni and cheese - into something a bit heartier. Talk about a perfect way to get out of a dinner rut! Taking inspiration from Haley's dish, I headed to my local Grocery Outlet to see what I could find to make something similar.
I found these packages of Beeman Gourmet Sausages priced at just $2.99! Elsewhere, you could expect to pay up to $5.99 for the same product. I decided to select the Apple and Gouda Cheese variety. We've had it before and it's delicious!
I couldn't help but notice these beautiful peppers for just $0.50 each! This is a great deal on colored peppers - they can often be as much as $1.50 at other grocery stores (and sometimes more.).
Finally, the pasta. I found this package of rotini for just $0.89. Feel free to use whatever pasta you want for this recipe; it certainly does not have to be elbow macaroni.
Start by preparing your bag of 1-lb pasta according to package directions. Veer towards cooking it "al dente" as you'll be baking it up in the oven a bit. While the pasta is cooking, you can begin to cook up the other components of this casserole.
I sliced up all four chicken sausages (12 oz) and browned them lightly in a skillet with a little bit of olive oil.
Next, I added in a diced red pepper and continued cooking for another minute or so, just until soft. Turn off heat and set aside.
Now it's time to make your cheese sauce. Gather 1 cup of warm milk and 2 cups of shredded cheese (I chose 1 cup of sharp cheddar and 1 cup of Colby Jack, but you could vary this based on your preferences). Start by melting ¼ cup of butter (that's ½ a stick) over medium heat. Once it's melted, whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour. The mixture will thicken and bubble pretty quickly, so make sure to keep whisking - don't let it burn! Once you see the bubbles form, begin to drop in cheese shreds by handful and alternate with adding the milk, whisking constantly, until it's all incorporated. Finally, add a pinch of salt. At the end you should have a delicious, silky smooth cheese sauce!
Turn off the heat, and set aside. If you've timed everything right, your pasta should be just about done now. Go ahead and drain it.
As you might have guessed, you're going to mix the pasta, cheese sauce, and sausage all together. Pour into a lightly-greased casserole dish. Sprinkle ½ cup breadcrumbs and drizzle with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Bake in a 350º oven for 15-20 minutes until set.
Well, how was it? I have to tell you that of all the dinners I've featured here on the Bargainista Blog, this is hands down my favorite! It's hearty fall comfort food at it's finest, but it's still quick and easy to make. I spent a total of $8.39 preparing this dish thanks to Grocery Outlet, so it's also friendly on the budget.
A special thank you also to my friend Haley for the idea! Download the PDF of this recipe here: Recipe Card.
Like this post? You might want to read the others in this series:
Make sure to come back next month for another fun installment!
Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and has recently taken up canning.