California Central Coast Recipes
Mac and Cheese-Romantic Table Style
Have you ever had a craving for warm-cheesy multidimensional tasting Macaroni and cheese- and I don't mean Kraft dinner? Well I did the other day -and no, I didn't have a good recipe at hand, so I just started "winging-it!" Now don't get me wrong! I did NOT want to morph it into something that would end up being a pain in the neck to make and clean up after. So I tried to keep my wits about me!
My recipe uses three cheeses: Sharp cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan to give it a multi-flavored and textured taste, as well as a classic Basamella Sauce to guarantee a luscious creaminess.This is one macaroni and cheese recipe that is worth the effort!
For cheese, I primarily used of course a cheddar, but also a domestic Parmesan that is made by Sartori-(It's the closest domestic Parmesan that we've ever found that's most like the imported Parmesan from Italy. Albertsons carries it.)
But to give it a little more "soul" and really make it soar to delight was the addition of a of the Gruyere cheese that I had on hand! Between the three cheeses, I was in ecstasy just looking at the ingredients! Picture gooey, stringy cheese with "an attitude" to really hit the mouth-craving spot! Comfort food at its best!
Because I am one who likes to do things a little differently, I chose to use a penne pasta instead of an elbow. And of course I needed a good roux so I used my basic Balsamella recipe that I learned while at a cooking school in Bologna, Italy. That really helped make it even more delicious.
Trust me! If you like memorable cheesy pastas, this recipe is for you!
For technique pointers on this recipe, please see my Blog: Early Fall Food Cravings
Preparation time: 30 minutesCooking time: 45 minutes
6 ounces uncooked penne pasta ,
5 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese , grated
4 ounce Gruyere cheese , grated
3 ounces Parmesan cheese , grated
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese , grated for top
3 to 4 cups milk
1/4 cup Butter
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoons ground Nutmeg ,
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup Dry bread crumbs for top
2 Tablespoons Butter , for dotting top
1 Cook pasta as directed on package minus a minute. When cooked, immediately cool-off pasta by running under cold water, then drain and set aside.
2 To make the Basamella sauce, heat the milk in a sauce pan until just boiling.
3 While the milk is heating, in a sauce pan large enough to hold the pasta and comfortably stir the milk, melt the butter over medium heat . Add the flour and with a whisk, stir until the mixture is smooth. As you cook the butter and flour mixture it will begin to foam a bit. Continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to turn a light tan in color.
4 While whisking continuously, carefully add one cup of hot milk to the mixture. It will steam up very fast, so be careful not to burn yourself. Keep whisking until a smooth paste forms. Add another cup of hot milk and continue whisking until the mixture is smooth. Add in the rest of the hot milk, whisking all the time to prevent lumps.
5 While stirring continuously, bring the sauce to a slow boil. Cook for a few minutes more until the sauce thickens.
6 Season the sauce with the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Strain if necessary.
7 To the large saucepan with the Basamella sauce, add the Cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses and cook over low heat until the cheeses are melted and the sauce is a little thickened.
8 Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and gently stir to to distribute the sauce evenly.
9 Carefully transfer the cheese-pasta mixture into a bake-safe serving dish. Be sure to scrap out any remaining sauce and even-off the top.
10 Carefully dust the top of the cheese-pasta with first-the remaining grated Parmesan, and then the dry bread crumbs on top of the Parmesan. This will give the mac and cheese a nice crunchy bite for texture.
11 Cut the last two tablespoons of butter into little matchsticks and dot the top of the cheese-pasta to give it a nice golden brown color when baked.
12 Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover the top with a light piece of aluminum foil.
You can serve this divine "mac and cheese" with a nice salad and a glass of chilled Rhone white wine for a meatless dinner. Or as a side for a robust meat entree' such as barbecued chicken or meatloaf and salad with a robust red such as a Sangiovese.