BBQ is a staple in our lives. I married a Texan who contemplated for days who was going to be the lucky one to inherit his smoker when we were preparing to move from Texas to NYC. To me, the old smoker looked like a hunk of black metal junk with a rusty pipe attached to it and it was a mortal sin to repeat my opinion out loud. Fast forward 11 years since we moved to the northeast and I have gladly accepted the role of determining where and how to find creative recipes to consume all of the meat that Stefan pulls off his (new and improved) smoker. There are plenty of benefits to being in the burbs!
It has been close to a year that I have been keen on trying to find ways to change our eating habits in my family. We have made a lifestyle change to fresh, colorful meals. Sometimes it's a big win for me and the kids to eat color.....
Sometimes it's a huge miss.
See the hot pink and bright yellow?
(Both colorful ideas were fun eating projects at Bambi's house).
We believe just about anything tastes good with a little BBQ sauce on it or a special BBQ rub that Stefan has yet to share the actual spices he mixes with even me. This past weekend was the first beautiful spring day we have had, so it was no surprise that Stefan was preparing his smoker to kick off the season. When he smokes, he goes big; so three pounds of pork shoulder later and I was searching for recipes that would help us keep our eating this week clean and appealing to our tribe.
So behold: a creamy, cheesy casserole full of tangy, ooey-gooey goodness.
Cheesy BBQ Pork Pasta Bake
Container count per serving: 1 red, 1/8 green, 1/2 purple, 2 yellow, 1 blue, 1 tsp.
- 4 tsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 1/3 cup shredded 2% sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 3 cups cooked whole grain pasta (I used rotini)
- 1/4 cup green onion, chopped, plus more for topping (optional)
- 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
- 3 cups cooked pork, shredded
- 3/4 cup clean BBQ sauce (no sugar or corn syrup. If you can’t find any at the store you can make your own (other recipes for this casserole bake call for 3 cups. I went very light and figured we would add our own if we wanted more. The amount I used was the perfect amount for our taste)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground mustard
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. When the oil is hot, whisk in the flour until it becomes a paste. Cook until the flour becomes a caramel color, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn.
- Add the almond milk slowly, whisking until it thickens. Mix in the salt, pepper, and ground mustard. Next, add 1 cup of the cheese and whisk until melted and well combined.
- Heat a small pan over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tsp. of oil. Add the chopped red onions and green onions and cook until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the onions to the cheese mixture.
- In a casserole dish, add the cooked pasta, chicken and all of the BBQ sauce. Mix well until combined. Next, add the cheese sauce and mix well. Top with the remaining drizzle of your BBQ sauce and 1/3 cup of cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted on top. Top with more green onions, if desired.
This was a huge hit with the family and we also had enough left over for Stefan to take some to work. It was definitely a nice break from the standard pulled pork sandwiches that we were eating last spring. For those of you wondering what my serving size looked like, check this out.
I added a side salad, but next time I think I would add a side of cucumber, tomato, onion and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.
Have it, fellow BBQ lovers!