We keep getting little bursts of hot weather, but I love how the mornings and evenings have that chill in the air, and how I can officially celebrate fall without people telling me I’m raining on their end of summer parade.

I’m ready for fall casseroles. I want to combine a bunch of ingredients together and let them cook together and just pull it out of the oven, ready to serve. I’m OK with saying goodbye to my “summer body.” Chunky sweaters, here I come.

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I know I spent two weeks on apples, but when I came across a macaroni and cheese recipe that included sausage and apples, I couldn’t resist. I love homemade mac ‘n cheese, and adding the sausages and apples (a classic combination), it’s going to make it into an even more satisfying meal. Baking it in the oven with some homemade bread crumbs takes a little more time, but it really does taste better that way.

Next, I was really in the mood for these cheesy Brussels sprouts. You sauté them with shallots, drizzle them with heavy cream and then top them with white cheddar and Gruyere and crumbled bacon, and they are so rich and earthy and just so fall.

And finally, a tater tot casserole, which is like a breakfast hashbrown casserole but with tater tots instead, and the roasted red peppers and spinach made it more suitable for any time of day I thought than the more classical breakfast versions. My kids love tater tots so I thought I had a better chance of getting them to eat this, even if it does have spinach in it.

Enjoy!

Sausage, apple, and cheddar mac ‘n cheese

3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage

1 large onion, peeled and finely diced

2 apples, cored and cubed into ½-inch pieces

¾ pound medium pasta shells

1 1/2 cup milk

4 tablespoons flour

6 tablespoons butter, divided

10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons mustard

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1/2 medium baguette

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Squeeze the sausage meat out of its casings, and use the back of a wooden spoon to break up into bite-sized pieces. Cook the sausage until browned all over and fully cooked through, stirring frequently. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage from the pan, and place it in a 9- by13-inch glass casserole dish.

Drain all but 3 tablespoons of the sausage grease from the pan. Add the diced onion and the cubed apples to the sauté pan with the remaining sausage grease, and sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions and apples are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Scrape the apples and onions into the casserole dish with the sausage, and season the apples, sausage, and onions to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the sauté pan from the heat, carefully wipe clean, and set aside.

Cook the pasta shells according to package directions, then drain and set aside.

Warm the milk in a saucepan over low heat until it is just steaming but not yet simmering. Place 4 tablespoons of the butter in the sauté pan and melt over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir to fully coat with the butter. Cook the flour-butter roux until just beginning to turn golden brown, about 2 minutes. Do not let it burn.

Once the roux is golden brown, slowly drizzle the warm milk into the pan, stirring as you do so. When all the milk is added, cook the sauce until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, then remove from the heat.

Add the grated cheese to the sauce a handful at a time, stirring until it is melted (do not add the cheese while the sauce is still on the heat, as this will cause the sauce to break). Once all the cheese is incorporated, stir in the nutmeg and the mustard, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the cheese sauce to the pasta shells and stir to coat, then add the pasta to the casserole dish with the other ingredients. Stir to evenly mix the ingredients in the pan.

Break the baguette into large chunks and quickly process in a food processor or blender to form medium-size bread crumbs. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauté pan and melt over medium heat, then add the bread crumbs to the melted butter. Sauté, stirring frequently, just until the bread crumbs are golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, then remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the top of the casserole dish. Place the casserole dish on a baking sheet (to catch any drips), then place in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Cheesy Brussels sprout casserole

5 slices bacon

3 tablespoons butter

2 small shallots, minced

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved

Kosher salt

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar

1/2 cup shredded Gruyère

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy, 8 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate, then chop. Discard bacon fat.

Return skillet to medium heat and melt butter. Add shallots and Brussels sprouts and season with salt and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and drizzle with heavy cream, then top with both cheeses and bacon.

Bake until cheese is bubbly, 12 to 15 minutes. (If your cheese isn't golden, switch oven to broil and broil 1 minute.)

Cheesy tater tot casserole

2/3 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar)

4 ounces baby spinach

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

8 eggs

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar

16 ounces tater tots (frozen)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Chop the roasted red peppers into bite-sized pieces.

Place the spinach in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute. Once wilted, pick at the spinach with a fork to separate the leaves.

Place the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk. Add the roasted red pepper pieces and the salt and pepper and mix. Then fold in the spinach and shredded cheddar.

Spray an 11- by 7-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Line the dish with frozen tater tots.

Pour the egg mixture over the tater tots, spreading out the veggies and cheese to evenly distribute them over the tater tots.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the egg mixture is set.

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