I’ve admitted it before and I’ll say it again– I’m not very good about using recipes when I cook. (Last time I admitted that, I received a scathing email calling me arrogant for saying that I could cook without instructions– I have no idea where that came from, but, trust me. I’m not telling you this to brag. I don’t consider it a virtue, by any means.)
Anyway, I do love to cook and I can (usually) concoct something fairly tasty. I chalk that ability up to being primarily a “method” cook. I tend to read and study enough recipes that I can learn a basic method, and then I try to apply that skill in different ways.
It usually works out okay.
One of the “methods” that I learned years ago and on which I still rely quite a bit is making a basic cheese sauce. There are lots of ways to make a good cheese sauce and many start with a roux– the butter and flour mixture that will ultimately thicken it. I typically skip the roux and just use butter, cream (or half & half or whole milk), and cheese, plus whatever spices sound good.
This is the method I use in the following simple recipe. Know that this way of making cheese sauce works for almost any cheese, so long as it doesn’t get “stringy” when it melts. For example, when I do this with swiss cheese? It’s not really creamy. It has a different texture. Now, my husband absolutely LOVES it and I still do it, but you should know that it won’t be smooth and creamy; it will have chunks and strings melted throughout.
Anyhow, moving on…
This recipe can be as made with fresh broccoli that’s been steamed and real crab meat for a very elegant, but still not hard, meal. It can also be made with a bag a frozen broccoli and imitation crab meat for an easy, inexpensive meal with great flavor. It’s up to you. I’ve done both and I will not judge you etiher way!
- 1 lb. penne pasta
- ½ cup butter
- 1 cup half & half or whole milk
- 7 or 8 oz. havarti cheese, finely shredded
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (or dill or tarragon, if you don't have that)
- 2 cups broccoli florets, steamed, OR 1 bag steamable frozen broccoli
- 8 oz. crab or imitation crab (fully cooked), in bite-sized pieces
- Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat, to boil. Once at a full, rolling boil, cook penne according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, add butter and half & half (milk) to sauce pan and heat over medium heat, until bubbling. Cook at a VERY low boil for about five minutes.
- Remove butter/half & half mixture from heat and gradually stir in shredded cheese, a handful at a time. It will melt in and form a sauce. Don't fret if it seems kind of thin-- it will thicken when it hits the starch of the pasts. Once all cheese is added, stir in black pepper and herbs.
- Drain pasta.
- Set the (empty) pot from the pasta, which will still be hot, back on the burner, set to low now. Toss the crab into the pot and stir occasionally to warm through and sweeten it.
- While you're warming the crab, steam your broccoli, on stove or microwave. Once steamed, dump it in with the crab.
- Pour cheese sauce over broccoli and crab and stir.
- Add pasta back to pot and stir gently to coat. Allow to sit for just a minute if the sauce seems thin. Otherwise, serve immediately.