Hot Dog Daisy Mac & Cheese
"Photo credit: Emily Marshall-Garrett (@jelloandcasseroles). Recipe courtesy Emily Marshall-Garrett

Hot Dog Daisy Mac & Cheese

There was a pan of baked macaroni and cheese on the table of every launch party in The Astronaut Wives Club.


for the mac & cheese

for the garnish


Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

1. Cook the onion. Melt a smidge of butter and sauté until translucent in a pan or dutch oven large enough to hold all of the cheese sauce ingredients above.
2. Add the spices. Minced or crushed garlic and crushed red pepper if using. Stir to tenderize the garlic, being careful not to let it burn.
3. Make a roux. Add about three tablespoons more butter and melt. Sprinkle the flour over the mix, and quickly stir into the butter, avoiding clumping. Add about 3 cups of milk gradually, whisking it all together. Let the mixture simmer and thicken until it coats the back of a spoon well. Look for added viscosity, without thickness. It should take about 5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat & add the cheese. Turn off your burner, and begin gradually adding the cheese. Start with the mascarpone, and once that's melted, add the sharp cheddar cheeses stirring continuously to mix and dissolve. Finally, add the Parmesan until fully incorporated. If you need to add another 1/4-1/2 cup of milk, now's the time. Your result should be thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Set aside.
5. Cook the pasta. Whichever noodle you choose, cook it until it's al dente. You want your noodle to have some structure because it still has to stand up to baking. Drain when finished. Don't let it linger in the water, or it will overcook. 6. Put it all together. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked noodles, stir to coat all of the pasta thoroughly. Transfer the cheesy noodles to a well-greased 13x9x2 casserole dish, spreading the mixture evenly in the pan. 7. Bake to bubbly and golden. About 30 minutes. The heat will warm everything through, the cheese will get a pleasant texture, and in that time, the pasta will get it's final softening. It won't look much changed, but the majesty of the dish comes together in the oven.

Garnishing the daisy

1. Pull the baking dish out of the oven a bit early. Remove at around 20-25 minutes. If you are making the mini hot dog border, ring the pan with Li'l Smokies. Press them in just enough to hold. They may sink a bit in their final cooking. Take a full-sized hot dog and cut it into six slices on the bias, so you have 1.5-2" long slices that are oval. Reserve the end of the hot dog for the center bud. Place the hot dog slices in a flower shape, and place the hot dog tip bud in the center. Ever so gently, using a pour spout or a utensil of your choice sprinkle the dried parsley in the shape of a flower stem, as seen in the photo. You may want to practice pouring the parsley on a paper towel first to get the hang of this on something that isn't bubbling and hot. Cut one more slice of hot dog on the bias. It can be the same or slightly smaller than the petals.
2. Return the pan to the oven for 5-10 more minutes. Keep an eye on the hot dogs. You want them to sizzle and warm a bit. They are pre-cooked, so food safety is not an issue, just getting the cold refrigerated look off of them. If this makes you super nervous, see Tip #6 below for hot dog news you can use, and cook the mac and cheese for a full 30 minutes.


You can adjust many things in this recipe. Onion, garlic, red pepper, cheese blend: all of these things can be changed or eliminated. For that matter, use your method and just follow the garnishing instructions. Use boxed mac and cheese or frozen. Do whatever is best or most comfortable for you. You can substitute the mascarpone with cream cheese. Parmesan brings some personality. Do it your way. Kraft from a box? Permission granted. All systems go.