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Macaroni and cheese: simplified (somewhat)

The search for the ultimate macaroni and cheese never ends. That’s a good thing, too, because it’s fun to try out and taste more dishes made of pasta and cheese.

Tonight’s version was based on the creamy baked mac-and-cheese by Deb of Smitten Kitchen. The main draw was the avoidance of both pre-cooked pasta and cheese sauce preparation, simplifying the recipe. Since I can’t keep my paws away from meddling, there are some… cunningly familiar ingredients. 😉

So how did it compare? Well, other than our desire for a better grating box-tool-thing, it turned out deliciously. (Not to mention the unloved oversized soufflé dish which had finally found a purpose.) While it didn’t have as Precious a top crust as last year’s model (i.e., more chewy than crunchy), it was incredibly creamy and saucy, you minx of a gratinéed pasta dish.

Leftovers exist. How shall they behave during tomorrow’s lunch? Watch this space to find out. Update (30-Jan-2008): The mac’n’cheese was tasty, but yesterday the cheese sauce separated. Then again, I had that with other versions of this, as well as with alfredo and other cheesy-creamy pasta dishes. After pondering the separation mystery, I found that the interwebs suggested adding a bit of milk or cream and slowly reheating. Indeed, the creamy sauce returned today (using whole milk), while mooshing it gently in a saucepan over medium heat.

Somewhat modified items

  • 1 onion, finely chopped and sautéed in garlic oil; I threw in some leftover white wine and ground coriander as well (latter two are both optional).
  • 1 cup of fresh, unripened cheese, like ricotta or cottage cheese
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • freshly grated pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 15 ounces shredded cheese: I used mostly cheddar (a sharp Irish one called Dubliner) along with some leftover Monterey Jack.
  • 8 ounces tubular pasta (uncooked!)
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan Reggiano

I more or less followed Deb’s preparation: Stir everything but the 1 ounce of Parmesan, plop into a greased ceramic dish, cover with foil and/or lid, and bake in 375F oven for 40 minutes (needed a bit longer). Then, uncover, sprinkle with Parmesan, pop back into oven for another 40 minutes until browned. It’ll come out bubbling madly, so let it settle down for a few minutes, outside of the oven, before tucking in.

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