Art-a-Rooney and Cheese

Where would we fine, proud and innumerable members of Steeler Nation be without the man that they call The Chief? Would our allegiances be distributed amongst the other teams of the National Football League? Would we favor another sport - tennis or... golf? What in the Squirrel Hill would we do on a Sunday afternoon in October? Pick apples?? 

Thankfully, Art Rooney, or, "The Chief," founded our beloved football team in 1933. Originally "The Pirates" (yes, named after the city's baseball team), the franchise went through several permutations and a lot of losses in the first 41 years. Rooney renamed the team "The Steelers" in 1940, and even merged with the Philadelphia Eagles for the 1943 season to become "The Steagles," as both teams' personnel and resources dwindled amidst World War II.

It's difficult to imagine that there was ever a time in history when the Steelers weren't the winningest franchise in Pro Football. In fact, they weren't very good at all. Nonetheless,  Rooney's "'calm, selfless counsel' made him one of the league's most dominant figures." (The New York Times) Art Rooney was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964 - ten years before the Steelers would win their first Super Bowl. That same year, this article about Rooney's quest for a title ("The Winning Ways of a Thiry-year Loser") was printed in Sports Illustrated magazine. The Chief finally did get that title after beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX. Of course the Steelers would go on to dominate the league for the rest of the decade. 

Apple sausage mac and cheese - this is my FAVORITE mac and cheese recipe. I've tried all sorts of variations on mac and cheese, and you can't go wrong with baked noodles and melted cheese, but this recipe really can't be beat. It has sweet apples, savory chicken sausage, sharp cheddar cheese and oodles of noodles. It's a winning combination.

Art-a-Rooney and Cheese
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine

1 lb uncooked medium shells
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
6 oz chicken apple sausage, diced
1/4 tsp cayenne 
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
1 small granny smith apple, peeled and diced
1/4 cup flour
3 cups apple juice
2 cups sharp (yellow) cheddar cheese, shredded
4 cups extra sharp Vermont (white) cheddar cheese, shredded
6 oz sour cream
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed

Cook pasta shells in pot of boiling (salted) water. Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook about 5 minutes, until tender and translucent. Add sausage, stir in mustard, cayenne, smoked paprika, apples and cook until golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Slowly stir in flour and cook for a few minutes. Stir in apple juice one cup at a time, allowing the sauce to thicken. Stir in 1 1/2 cups yellow cheddar and 3 cups white cheddar, reserving the rest. Once the cheese has melted and sauce has thickened, remove from heat. Stir in pasta and sour cream. Transfer pasta mixture to casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and cracker crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.  

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