another mac and cheese recipe.

…This time inspired by the celebrity cookbook author I disparaged yesterday. Conclusion 2: It turns out she really can cook. I just made this, tasted a bite, and smiled. Yum.

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food; it reminds me of childhood and cozy winter nights. I had an irksome morning with lots of school work and some unpleasant news, and I knew it was time to get to the kitchen to make food for people I like. Some people paint or write when they’re upset. I search the fridge and cupboards for ingredients I can mix together to make something delicious. Then I adorn an apron, put on some loud music, mix and whisk and saute, and often end up with flour on my face.

I altered the recipe slightly because I’ve never really liked nutmeg in macaroni and cheese dishes. (If you like it, add a pinch to the cheeses as they melt.) Instead, I prefer the very subtle taste of dijon mustard, which has been the secret ingredient in the best macaroni and cheeses I’ve ever tried. I also used whole wheat pasta and low-fat cheeses to up the health ante just a tad.

I’ve never tried mascarpone in mac ‘n cheese before, and it’s delicious! Creamy without being overly rich. Plus, this recipe takes less time than others because it doesn’t call for making a roux (butter + flour + milk + lots of whisking) for the base of the sauce. I think this will delight kids and adults alike. Enjoy! lv, molly

Macaroni + Cheese w/ Mascarpone + Parmesan

3/4 pound elbow macaroni (you can sub whole wheat)
8 ounces mascarpone (low-fat if you can find it)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 C tightly packed grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1/2 cup for topping
1/2 C low-fat milk
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 C plain bread crumbs
2 Tbl unsalted butter (or a few spritzes of canola spray)

For variation add one of the following:
1 cup basic tomato sauce
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup taleggio cheese,broken into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and turn it on to convection if that’s a possibility. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni for 2 minutes less than indicated on the package.
Meanwhile, stir together the mascarpone and 1 cup of Parmesan in a small saucepan over a medium flame until the cheeses melt together, about 2 minutes. Stir in the milk, dijon, and salt and pepper to taste and keep the sauce warm over a low flame.
Drain the pasta and combine it with the sauce.
In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan and the bread crumbs.
Put the macaroni in a large baking dish; scatter the bread crumb topping over it; dot it with the butter; and bake it for 15 minutes. Serve with a simple green salad.

Image via here. Not my own but representative of how this dish looks!

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gruyere, fontina, cheddar, oh my!

I’ve found the holy grail of macaroni and cheese sauces, and it goes like this.

Create a roux (see directions below. Julia Child taught me about rouxs. Or rather, her cookbook did.). Add milk + djion mustard.

Whisk in fontina, gruyere, + sharp cheddar.

Toss with pasta; put in baking dish; top with bread crumbs; bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

This whole dish takes about 45 minutes from start to finish, and it’ll make all your guests happy and warm. And now for the detailed recipe for you detail-oriented cooks… lv, molly

P.S. This dish can be made healthier quite easily by substituting low-fat cheese, reducing the quantity of cheese, using fat-free milk, less butter, and by using whole wheat pasta and adding vegetables. I chose not to do any of those things this time around.

P.P.S. Bruce Springsteen came on my iPod as I was whisking, and I sang along. This feels like pertinent information.

Simple Macaroni + Cheese

Serves 4

1 pound pasta
2 Tablespoons butter or earth balance
2 garlic cloves
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
1/3 cup sharp cheddar
Freshly ground black pepper or chopped basil

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and place pasta in a single-layer in a 1-1/2 quart shallow baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Whisk in flour until it thickens and bubbles; then whisk in milk and Dijon. Continue to whisk mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.

Combine Gruyere, fontina, and cheddar, and add them to the milk mixture. Stir constantly until smooth! Once all cheese is melted, season sauce with pepper.

Pour sauce over pasta and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Voila!

world’s best mac & cheese.

I love this shop.

I love this shop.

Macaroni & Cheese is one of my favorite pleasures. (I’m leaving out the guilt because it usually takes more than cheese to make me feel guilty.) You can imagine my delight when I saw that the Seattle Pi published Beecher’s Macaroni & Cheese recipe. Maybe you can’t. But I can assure you; I was delighted. And I’m even more delighted now because I’m eating some. If you don’t live in the Seattle area & can’t get Beecher’s Flagship cheese, ask a cheesemonger for a good semi-hard cheese (e.g., sharp cheddar). I generally eat healthfully, but when it comes to macaroni and cheese, I melt. (Is that a pun?) Enjoy, you macaroni & cheese lovers, you… xo, m

World’s Best Mac & Cheese (and I’ve tried a lot)
Serves 4 as a side dish

6 ounces penne pasta
2 cups Beecher’s Flagship Sauce (recipe follows)
1 ounce cheddar, grated ( 1/4 cup)
1 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated ( 1/4 cup)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil or butter an 8-inch baking dish.
Cook the penne 2 minutes less than package directions. (It will finish cooking in the oven.) Rinse pasta in cold water and set aside.
Combine cooked pasta and Flagship Sauce in a medium bowl and mix carefully but thoroughly. Scrape the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the cheeses and then the chile powder. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
NOTE: If you double the recipe to make a main dish, bake in a 9-by-13-inch pan for 30 minutes.

Num nums!

Num nums!

Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce
NOTE: A single batch of sauce makes enough for a double recipe of macaroni and cheese.

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
14 ounces semihard cheese, such as Beecher’s Flagship or a sharp, aged cheddar, grated (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 ounces grated semisoft cheese, such as Beecher’s Just Jack
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking and cooking for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, salt, chile powder and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to three days.