Hurricane Sandy is heading toward us and that's all anyone can talk about (and rightfully so). But for those of you who have the itch to cook today as I do, here's a perfect meatless recipe for an exceptionally rainy day on which you need to clear out perishables from your fridge.
I’ve always loved cheese, especially when it's melted into a creamy, gooey sauce for pasta. Although I started out being content with boxed mac and cheese (and which I will admit still satisfies a certain craving and reminds me of being 7 years old), these days I make my own, as it's really simple and so much better than anything made with powdered cheese.
There are, of course, infinite variations on mac and cheese, and it’s pretty hard to make pasta + cheese bad, but I strongly believe that there a few simple rules to which you should adhere: 1) neither onions nor orange cheese have any place in it; 2) the right mixture of cheeses can make it great – I really like 50% fontina for its creamy texture, and 25% each gruyere and extra sharp white cheddar for their excellent sharp flavors, but any mix of soft melting cheeses and slightly firmer, more flavorful cheese will work just as well; 3) subtle spicing can make all the difference – I use a liberal dose of white pepper and nutmeg, and a hint of allspice. Sounds a bit pumpkin pie-like, but, believe me, it works very well and is just barely discernible.
Stay safe and dry, neighbors, and while you're cooped up indoors, make yourself something delicious and comforting to eat.
(from Raspberry Eggplant)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 pound medium pasta shells
3 cups lowfat milk
4 tablespoons flour
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 ounces fontina cheese, grated
4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
¾ cup panko or other plain bread crumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Use 1-2 teaspoons of butter to lightly grease 8 small or 1 large ramekin or an 8"x8" baking dish.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta 2-3 minutes less than the suggested cooking time (it should be very al dente). Drain the pasta and set aside.
Add the milk to a medium saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low.
Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, whisking occasionally. Slowly stream in the hot milk and whisk constantly. Cook until the mixture is thick and bubbly, about 8 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the spices and then the cheeses.
Add the panko and olive oil to a small bowl and mix well to combine. Add the parmesan cheese and salt and mix to combine.
Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and evenly distribute the mac and cheese between them, or put the entire mixture in a large baking dish. Top with the panko mixture.
Bake until bubbly and the panko is golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Serve immediately.