Who doesn’t love pasta?
In my house, that question’s somewhat rhetorical as we both love it, and no messing. And I’m not talking about fancy pants pasta either – pasta that’s been lovingly made from scratch or the bags of fresh pasta that you find in the refrigerated counter in supermarkets. No, although we enjoy those to the absolute max, I’m referring to the assorted varieties of dried pasta that seem to come in ever larger bags, and which are such a handy staple in the storecupboard.
So today started with a chilly, drizzly Saturday morning. Bye Bye Summer – not the best of starts for the first weekend of September, but I thought I’d bring my own little bit of sunshine to the day by making a new favourite dish of mine – a comforting bowl of Mac ‘n Cheese – and with a huge piece of Extra mature Cheddar stashed in the fridge, the day’s cooking in the kitchen was decided. Game on.
Now, even tho pasta, in one form or another finds itself onto our dinner plates most weeks, Mac ‘n Cheese is a relative newcomer – and considering our love for all the cheese, I honestly don’t know why! Because who can resist soft pasta enveloped in the
of bechamel sauces, especially when this sauce comes loaded with a ton of your favourite cheese?
Now I know traditionally that this famous dish is made with macaroni or elbow pasta as I’ve heard it described – these shapes providing the best surface for the sauce to cling to, but sometimes a gal’s just got to go with what’s sitting in the cupboard and so on this occasion, macaroni was subbed for ribbed tubes. Did it matter? Not one jot I don’t think. Because what the straight tubes lacked in curve, was compensated for with my due diligence when it came to binding the two together. Where flavour’s concerned, ain’t nothing going to stand in my way!
As regards recipes for Mac ‘n Cheese, purists may well point out that this iconic dish is made from just two main components, that is, the pasta itself and the cheese sauce, but personally, I can never resist frying a couple of onions in butter first, SLOWLY so they melt down, becoming all caramelized and sticky – 40 minutes or so should do it, then adding these to the sauce, once the cheese has melted. The depth that this brings to the whole dish is gorgeous, moreish, in fact … and so worth that extra bit of effort .
And what of toppings? Well a forkful of that lovely yielding, gooey softness, so delicious in it’s own right, can be taken to the next level when there’s a
adding some contrast in texture. Again, rules are meant for breaking so if I find myself with a heel of bread going spare then I’ll grate it into breadcrumbs, dry frying these till they’re pale golden and crispy, before sprinkling them over the top –
is the name of the game here and to make it even more interesting, a few sprigs of thyme from the garden can add extra depth to the crumbs – as a side note, the scent in the kitchen from my newly picked sprigs and their tiny little flowers, was wonderful, so much so, I couldn’t resist plonking them into some cute little vintage bottles I tracked down recently at the Liverpool Antique Centre.
As a home cook, dishes like Mac ‘n Cheese that end up coming together in one pot, are a real favourite of mine and because of this, I tend to follow recipes up to a point, but very often find myself tweaking here and there, as I did with Nigel Slater’ recipe for Macaroni with Fontina. In my own version, I went with everything he suggested except the type of cheese, plus omitted the mustard but
by grating lashings of fresh nutmeg into the sauce, and of course, let’s not forget those caramelized onions. Heady stuff indeed.
Thanks so much for passing by and sharing in one of Madge’s Musings – I’d love to know if anyone out there shares my love for the famous Mac ‘n Cheese and if they do, have any suggestions to offer.
See you soon, Mary [aka Madge] xo