slightly different macaroni and cheese
It was another one of those nights. A Monday night. Back from the front lines of the
math/science crisis in America, complicated by economic pressures to get faculty to do
more and more besides teaching (let's not even talk about research), dr bob and ms_ani
have carpooled home to a creative cooking projectalternative macaroni and cheese.
The goal: to use up a hunk of asiago cheese that had been around awhile, and some of the
new block of pecorino romanoboth of which by the way seem to last nearly forever in
the fridge, unlike the precious parmigiano supply we keep there. From the early days of mr
bob (the pre-PhD period), the Betty Crocker Cookbook had been the bible for making
macaroni and cheese, but it never seemed as tasty as the killer yellow stuff sold as a
side dish by cafeteria/deli/diner type food providers.
This time, apart from the cheese constraints, Dijon mustard was suggested by an intense
period of recipe section extraction the day before from a dozen woman's magazines culled
of their possible jewels prior to waste disposal after years of procrastination. [Now the
impetus for the editing was the big upcoming first time home ownership move. Also
responsible for the need to use up existing pasta supplies to avoid taking along the
dreaded starch bug plague to the new residence, but that's another story.]
Already late, there would not be excessive time for creativity. Boil the pasta water,
then the pasta about 12 minutes (read the box) to an al dente state. Meanwhile do
the béchamel sauce. Combine and layer twice with cheese and freshly grated black pepper in
a deep baking dish. 20 minutes at 400º, then the broiler to brown the top a few minutes.
- 1 10 oz box of elbow macaroni (we used organic pasta)
- 2 2/3 c béchamel sauce:
- 3 T butter
- 3 T flour
- 2 2/3 c milk
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 T Dijon mustard
- 2 c grated asiago cheese
- 1/2 c pecorino romano
- Didn't we already go over this?
- Well, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until smooth, then add a little milk and
whisk until smooth, then dump in the rest and try to smooth it all out. Add in the other
stuff and the cheese too, which should melt and smooth in as well.
- Combine with the cooked macaroni and throw in the preheated 400º oven for as long as
you can stand waiting, then finish it off with the broiler if you want a browned top.
- Once you relax the rules on a recipe, anything goes. ms_ani had a macaroni and cheese
craving during the media hyped ICE STORM '94 that caught us by surprise one winter Friday.
And we had some fresh generic mushrooms to use up, and some frozen veal to nuke back to
life (i.e., usability) in the microwave. And some pre-move DeCecco rigatoni still to get
- So we decided to substitute the 1 lb box of rigatoni for the 10 oz elbow macaroni we
used the first time and jack up the béchamel sauce to 3 cups. Except we were real low on
milk, so we hit our dried milk supply for the electric bread machine, recently joined by a
lone can of dried buttermilk powder found misplaced on a supermarket shelf. So we used 1/2
c of nonfat regular milk powder plus 1/4 c buttermilk powder plus 3 c water for the liquid
milk. From the 8oz of generic fresh mushrooms, halved and finely sliced, half were
in 2 T of butter just briefly with freshly ground black pepper. The cheese was about the
same, but only eyeballed. We just mixed it all up in the pot this time, cheese and freshly
ground black pepper. Some added breadcrumbs on top and some shaved Kaisori (?) cheese that
was left over, not enough. That's all.
- Meanwhile we revived the veal, floured it and sautéed it in olive oil. Then removed the
veal and did the mushrooms with a few tablespoons of chopped leaks. Quickly adding the 1/3
c Marsala wine, maybe 1/2 c. Then returned the veal to the pan to simmer a bit while we
attacked the macaroni. A little Frascati wine from the fridge, open for cooking, a little
salad. What a meal.
- Guess you had to be there...
yet another variation: garlic-herb mac & cheese
Over the years we've done many variations on mac & cheese, but in 2010 ani
tried a recipe from King Arthur Flour that turned out really well. We are
somewhat partial to this American company, having visited its small town
headquarters in Norwich, VT several times. We use their white whole wheat and
whole wheat flour regularly, always having some on hand. Ani had signed up for
their e-newsletter and this little gem was in one. It calls for several
specialty ingredients which we did not have, so we just left them out. Actually
Ani did the whole thing, bob just happily ate the result. Declaring it the best
ever. Nice and creamy, very tasty. Worth remembering to do again. And again.
- 8 oz pasta, we used whole wheat shells
- 2 3/4 c milk
- 1/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour (they suggest 1/4 c Signature Secrets
- 1/2 c Vermont cheese powder (who would have that on hand?)
- 1 c shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 c shredded asiago cheese (our substitution for half the cheddar they
- 1/2 t ground black pepper
- 1/2 t ground mustard powder
- 1/4 to 1/2 t salt, to taste.
- 4 T butter
- 2 t garlic oil
- 2 t pizza seasoning (we used parmesan blend bread dipping seasoning)
- 1 1/2 c Japanese panko bread crumbs (coarse bread crumbs).
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 2 qt
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water as
directed until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water. Set Aside.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, whisk
together the flour and milk (and the cheese powder if you have it) and bring
to a boil. It will naturally thicken, no butter necessary.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese
and seasonings. Stir occasionally, until the cheese is completely melted.
- Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce and
spoon/dump it into the baking dish.
- Melt the butter and garlic oil together,
then stir in the piza seasoning and panko bread crumbs. Then sprinkle a
thick layer over the pasta and cheese mixture.
- Bake 25 to 35 minutes. Yields 5 1/2 c,
about 4 servings.
- King Arthur Flour.
Garlic-herb mac & cheese recipe.
Vermont cheese powder. Apparently this is their healthier alternative to
the magic cheesy flavor of the legendary Kraft Mac & Cheese junk food in a
box, check out their
Baker's Banter blog entry "The Big Cheese-y" (with an excessive amount
of yummy step by step photos). Sounds like it is a product worth ordering
someday to have on hand. If only the shipping charges on one item were not
excessive. And the sodium levels?
Signature Secrets Culinary Thickener. Sounds like starch with a fancy
- Illustrations available. [Not as
professional as theirs].