Southern Style Seafood Mac n Cheese
Welcome! I am so excited to share my Ultimate Southern Style Seafood Mac n Cheese with you all!
I created this recipe for my dear best-friend in the UK, who ate the “best seafood macaroni” in Egypt!
You know it was a memorable meal when they actually have a photograph of it.. so I pimped up my regular gourmet mac n cheese recipe to give it a charming Southern flair!
This recipe stands at the intersection of Boston's famous Mac n Cheese and Louisiana's Cajun Shrimp.
What's so special about this dish?
Every bite graces you with a creamy Cajun medley of prawns, scallops and crab along with some tender pasta covered with a velvety smooth sauce and a final crunch of herb laced panko.
Mac n Cheese for me, depends on the quality and texture of the creamy sauce and believe me when I tell you - this is the BEST creamy béchamel I have made at home.
If you like, just use prawns and omit the other types of seafood.
And for those of you who do not like seafood, leave it out completely it will still be a banging Southern style Mac n Cheese!
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE SEASONING Y'ALL.
Alright, so before I give you the instructions on how to go about starting this dish, we need to discuss the measurements of spices.
My family and I do not 'measure' ingredients using equipment as we use our touch and sight to decide quantities but as I was planning on sharing the recipe on here, I measured everything properly according to my taste and spice level which is MILD.
This dish is not spicy if you make it according to my quantities in the ingredients section. I believe Cajun seasoning should be about the blend of herbs and smokiness rather than chilli power.
However - if you are a spicy person then double or triple the chilli quantity!
You can use any pasta shape your heart desires, whether it’s penne, farfalle (the bow-ties I have used), or as the title states - macaroni elbow pasta!
I know I call this recipe "Mac n Cheese" however I thought the bow-ties were too cute to not use and I am certainly not calling this dish 'Bow Ties n Cheese' because that just sounds weird..
Serves : 4 to 6
1.5 Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp Onion Powder
1/2 Tsp Chilli Flakes (Add ½ Tsp More For Medium Spice Or 1 Tsp More For Spicy)
1/4 Tsp Dried Thyme
10 X King Prawns Chopped In Half, 10 X Scallops Roe-Off, ½ Cup Cooked Crab Meat
1 X Brown Onion Fine Chopped
1 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Cups Dry Bow-Tie Pasta
80g Unsalted Butter
80g Plain Flour
1 Litre Whole Milk
1 Tsp Garlic Paste
2 Tsp Hot Sauce (Franks, Sriracha or Cholula work well)
1 Tsp Dried Basil Leaves
1 Tbs Coriander Leaves Fine Chopped
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Pepper
1/3 Cup Cheddar Cheese Grated
1/3 Cup Mozzarella Cheese Grated
1/2 Cup Panko Crumbs
1/2 Tsp Dried Basil Leaves For Garnish
1/2 Tbs Coriander Leaves Fine Chopped For Garnish
Cooking Oil Spray
1. Make the Cajun spice mix by combining the first 7 ingredients in a small bowl : smoked paprika, salt, garlic powder, ground black pepper, onion powder, chilli flakes (add ½ tsp more for medium spice or 1 tsp more for spicy), dried thyme.
Separate 30% into one small bowl and 70% into another small bowl.
2.Place the chopped prawns + scallops into the bowl with 30% of the Cajun spice mix and combine with hands ensuring the prawns are well coated.
3.Make the béchamel sauce now.
On a low-medium flame, heat 80g butter until melted then add the remaining 70% Cajun seasoning and mix for 10 seconds with a wooden spoon.
Then add 80g plain flour and mix until combined - cook this seasoned paste for 2 mins stirring constantly to ensure it does not burn.
Switch to a whisk now. Slowly and in a steady stream, add the milk stirring constantly with a whisk until velvety smooth.
Add salt and taste to ensure there is enough seasoning.
Now add the garlic paste, hot sauce, 1 tsp dried basil leaves, 1 tbs fine chopped coriander and mix gently.
Check the consistency of the bechamel sauce.
Thin the sauce out with water until the texture is smooth, and like thickened pouring cream (not dollop cream).
Add the grated cheeses and stir gently with the whisk until well combined and melted – this will only take a few seconds.
Now turn the heat off and set aside.
4.Prepare the pasta – bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add salt to the water once it comes to the boil and just before you add the pasta.
Cook according to the packet instructions, or around 10-11 minutes for al-dente.
Do not overcook the pasta.
5.Prepare the seafood – whilst the pasta is boiling, heat a small frying pan, then add 1 tbs olive oil and the onions.
Fry the onions on a gentle medium heat until light gold in colour, stirring frequently. This will take less than 5 minutes so keep an eye on the onions.
Now add the spiced seafood minus the crab, and fry until cooked, around 5 minutes more – tossing pan every couple minutes. Ensure the scallops are to one side, and prawns to another.
Once cooked, turn heat off and set aside.
6.Once the pasta is al-dente, using a slotted spoon add the bow-ties into the béchamel sauce, along with the cooked prawn, scallops and crab. Stir gently until all combined.
7.Place this mixture into a baking dish and top with the panko crumbs (add as much or as little as you desire).
If you are preparing this dish 1 day in advance then STOP here and wait for dish to cool, before you cover dish with cling film and refrigerate. Once you are ready to bake, proceed with below steps.
Then spray the surface with some oil and place in 200 deg C fan forced oven for 25 min until the surface has browned and golden in colour.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the dried basil + fine chopped coriander leaves.
8.Serve immediately and consume same day as prepared for best consistency.
I hope you try out this unique twist on the classic pasta dish that everyone knows and loves!
I am sure you will enjoy it just as much as my family & friends do!
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