pasta & recipes: mac and cheese grown up
Susan: “Oh, I wouldn’t eat that if I were you.”
Susan: “I made it, trust me. Hey, hey, do you have a death wish?”
Mike: “No, I just refuse to believe that anybody can screw up macaroni and cheese.”
Mike: “Oh my God. How did you…it tastes like it’s burnt and undercooked.”
Susan: “Yeah, I get that a lot. Here you go.”
This was a conversation on the pilot episode of Desperate Housewives. If I were able to convey to my mother that “it tastes like it’s burnt and undercooked” as a child I would have found myself eating more macaroni and cheese than I cared to consume. As far as my father was concerned, my mother’s macaroni and cheese was the best. As for me, I could never quite grasp the unbridled joy that my peers would display when they declared that they were having macaroni and cheese for dinner.
Where they crazy?! Unfortunately it wasn’t until I became a mother and cook that I discovered the pleasure of macaroni and cheese. It is comfort food at its finest. And, the varieties of macaroni and cheese are as the people who savor this culinary version of a warm, cozy blanket. After years of experimenting I discovered a macaroni and cheese that was creamy, rich with a hint of sharpness and of course yellow. (Admit it. You know you love that deep, warm yellow glow)
My personal tastes, my family’s personal tastes, dictated an unbaked macaroni and cheese. After years of my mother’s crunchy, bread crumb topped baked macaroni and cheese with the cold middle I was initially anti baked macaroni and cheese. My early macaroni and cheese concoctions were a creamy, stove top version that need not be baked. My family was quite content to eat this very gooey, stick to the roof of your mouth version of macaroni and cheese. It was a stick to your ribs version as well. I was hoping to strike a better balance between comfort and gourmet, between sharp cheddar and (gasp) Velveeta (don’t judge).
I finally discovered the perfect balance. One that includes stovetop preparations (and/or a microwave), oven and butter! Yes, butter! Comfort food. Remember we are talking about comfort. What could be more comforting than warmed butter poured over the macaroni and cheese after it has been baked. Clearly, anyone who is concerned about their weight would never think this is a good idea, but then they probably wouldn’t be eating macaroni and cheese. The butter was an idea conceived by my teenage, athletic boys who aren’t exactly concerned about too many calories. It is meant to be used sparingly, though.
This recipe is simplistic. But, what comfort food is complicated? This macaroni and cheese can be made in a large casserole dish for a family or in individual baking dishes for a wonderful dinner appetizer. Either way, it will be a comforting meal for those times that require a little extra love.
1 box (1 lb) cellentani pasta (corkscrews)
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cut into large chunks
8oz gouda, cut into large chunks
8 oz velveeta , cut into large chunks
1 ½ cup heavy cream
½ stick butter, melted
1. Boil water in a pasta pot. When water has boiled add the pasta and cook until medium texture.
2. In a large microwavable bowl or in the pot of a double boiler which is placed over boiling water, melt all the cheeses together. (Check to see if your microwave has a “melt” feature. It is very handy.)
3. Once the cheese is melted, pour in the heavy cream. Mix until combined.
4. When the pasta is finished cooking, drain thoroughly and place pasta into the large bowl with the cheese. Mix until the pasta is evenly coated.
5. Place pasta into individual baking dishes or a large casserole dish.
6. Bake at 350 degrees until firm. Do not overbake.
7. As soon as the macaroni and cheese is finished baking remove from oven and poor butter over the top, sparingly. Serve immediately.