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Mac n cheese - not cooking pasta beforehand

I am making a chipotle bacon mac n cheese for a friendly competition between friends. One recipe that sound particularly good says not to cook the pasta beforehand, and just let it cook in the sauce in the oven. Can anyone comment on this method???


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  1. In my experience this only works with pasta that's labelled 'no need to pre-cook' - which is mostly lasagne sheets. I certainly wouldn't do it for the competition without trying it first, whatever the recipe says!

    1. My mother has made her lasagna this way for years, long before the advent (or at least the local availability) of no-cook noodles. You just need a higher proportion of liquid in the sauce. That said, I really do not care for my mom's lasagna. When you cook the noodles in the sauce without boiling them first, they have a starchier flavor that I find really blunt. Others in my family don't notice it as much, but for a mac and cheese competition, I wouldn't risk it.

      1. Unless not cooking the pasta first is the theme of the competition, I too give it a "thumbs down." If you'd like to show us the recipe, maybe people can tell you how they'd do it differently. (Without looking, I'd say cook the bacon separately until the fat has little translucence left, but is not completely cooked, then crumble it and toss it into a good M&C recipe (i.e., one that starts with a bechamel, to which you add your cheeses, seasonings, and partly cooked pasta). I almost always use cavatappi (for its springy bite), top it with dried bread chunks, and bake it for 1/2 hour.

        Not cooking pasta is the solution to a problem you don't have.

        1. I'd be terrified to try that method. Intrinsically it just doesn't seem like it should work. The sauce will be too thick to properly cook the noodles, and I see a huge, pasty mess in your very near future; and if it was thin enough (like, it would have to be almost a broth consistency, and I don't even know about that....) what kind of mac n cheese/comfort food would it be? My vote is no, don't even consider it. Unless...is this some sort of very thin, very fresh pasta you're doing in a saute? I've done that cooking on a line, but even that was pretty avant garde, and in all honesty, IMHO, would have been better if parcooked.

          1. You might want to look at this article-- it explains a little about "absorption pasta"
            Could this be the method they mean?

            1. I have definately made a very mac and cheese that did not call for cooking the pasta ahead of time and it turned out fine. I'll have to see if I can dig out the recipe. I do recall that it had a lot of cheese - maybe a pound? The texture was fine. Worth making, IMHO.

              **Found the recipe I used**

              3 Replies
              1. re: beggsy

                This recipe looks interesting, actually - thanks for posting!

                1. re: biondanonima

                  I was thinking the same thing! If I try it I'll write a little review here.

                  1. re: blue room

                    I took this out of the oven 20 minutes ago--the macaroni is perfectly cooked. I won't trade it for my usual, (different flavor) but the elbow macaroni is just fine.

              2. Spain, Italy and Mexico have dishes that use pasta (usually small sizes) as though it was rice - cooked in a savory broth till the liquid is absorbed. In Mexico it is Sopa seca de fideos (dry noodle soup), in Spain Fideua (a noodle equivalent to paella).

                Here's a NYT Bittman article on cooking pasta like rissoto


                1. I had a recipe that suggested the same thing. I was dubious, but decided to trust the instructions. The pasta never ended up cooked, no matter now long I left it in. I'm not sure whether this was because it was back in the days when I was a less experienced cook, or not, but if you were to give it a go, I'd recommend a practice run first.