Aren’t they cute? I like to call them Hot-opuses. Which is also a cute name. Isn’t it?
Unless you have a three year old who butchers the pronunciation of things. Because then he will be shouting, “I wuv hot pu$$ies” the entire time you are eating dinner. And while it is very funny, you really don’t want to have to explain to the rest of your children why you are laughing. Trust me.
This is a very simple recipe. You will need:
2 lbs of shell pasta
1 1/3 cups of milk
1/2 cup butter
16 oz mild cheddar cheese
16 oz of sharp cheddar
You can use whatever kind of cheese you like. I picked these two cheeses because they are mild and my children like them.
Salt, to taste
This feeds 10 people. If you have less than ten people to feed. Half the recipe
You want to grate your cheese so that it will melt easily. I have this antique cheese grater that I love. As I use it I like to think about the people who used it before I found it. What were they making? Did they grate the skin off of their knuckles like I frequently do? Did they say, “Mmmm, extra flavor!” like I do? Did they happily cast it aside when more modern inventions came along and made the task easier?
Using the grater is a lot of work. You may even need a snack to help you get through it.
And as always many hands make light work.
Of course you could buy your cheese already grated at the store. But then what will you do with yourself while your pasta is boiling away?
Next you want to grease your casserole dish with your butter. Really slather it on. Neatness does not count in this particular step of the recipe. That will come later.
Toss the rest of the stick of butter into the pot with your already cooked and drained pasta shells. Stir it up so that it melts and coats the pasta.
Next add your grated cheese.
A little at a time so that you can stir it up evenly.
Pour it all into your casserole dish.
Measure out your 1 1/3 cup of milk.
Pour it all over the pasta. Cover with aluminum foil and put into a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. If you would like the macaroni on the top to get crunchy, remove the aluminum foil for the last 10 minutes of baking. My children do not like the crunchy pasta.
Ten minutes before the macaroni is done, prep the hot dogs.
You want to cut the eight “legs” before you boil them. Hold the hot dog and about one inch from the top of the hot dog slice in half lengthwise. Turn the hot dog a quarter turn and repeat the process. Now is the time for your perfectionist qualities to come out. Each of those four individual legs needs to be cut in half. Because octopi have 8 legs.
My husband said, “Isn’t four enough?” and then proceeded to chop one of the legs off by mistake. So I had to take over the leg cutting lest we have a whole slew of octopus amputees.
You can feel good about feeding your children hot dogs when you prepare them this way. Something about the length of time it takes you to prepare food makes it instantly more nutritious. No really. I swear.
Then put them in your shallow pan of water to cook. They do look like weird octopi now don’t they?
The “legs” will curl up. My 3 year old son saw them at this point and yelled, “They are holding hands!”
Remove macaroni from oven. You will want to scoop it into the bowl and set the hot-opus in top. If I had peas I would have added some to the top of the bowl at this point. But I didn’t.
Add eyes to the hot-opus with mustard or ketchup.
And so we have the perfect kid friendly meal, with nary a vegetable to be found.