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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Twisted Mac and Cheese

A good friend of mine once challenged me to a Macaroni and Cheese-off. We then proceeded to try her amazing recipe; however, I never managed to make mine. Nicole, consider this my entry!

I learned to make Macaroni and Cheese from my mother. As one of the simplest recipes, I could make it unassisted fairly reliably ... and without burning myself. This early recipe was almost overpoweringly cheesy. Calling for pats of butter and slices of Kraft American Cheese, it was the classic homemade American macaroni recipe. I loved it. Kraft-in-a-box had nothing on this stuff.

I can remember my mother trying to make additions to the "tried-and-true," and I hated it. If she used anything but American cheese, I found it unpalatable. American gave such a smooth texture to the sauce, how could I ever eat a substitute?

Luckily, as I grew up my tastes evolved. Today my macaroni and cheese recipe has a couple of twists, as well as a spicy bite. It also rarely uses macaroni (a pasta style we don't often have on hand). I have my mother to thank for the process of this recipe, though the ingredients vary fairly far from the "American Original" of my childhood.

As Autumn comes on stronger and stronger, try this mac and cheese to warm you up!

Twisted Mac and Cheese
(serves 2-3)

What You'll Need:
A medium saucepan
A cheese grater

1/2 lb whole wheat Rotini pasta (any style pasta with notches/holes to collect sauce will work)
1/2 cup roughly grated Colby/Jack cheese
1/2 cup roughly grated Habanero (or other spicy peppered) Cheddar
1/4 cup roughly grated White Cheddar
1 1/2 cup skim milk (may use other fat % as desired)
1 teaspoon whole wheat flour
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 fresh basil leaves (or a teaspoon dried basil)
Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Boil pasta in well salted water until nearly al dente. Refrain from "finishing" the pasta. If left slightly uncooked, it will "finish" cooking while you are making the cheese sauce. This will save you from lifeless noodles that fall apart.

Drain water from pasta. If you removed the pasta to drain the water, place pasta back in the saucepan. Over a medium heat, toss rotini with 2-3 tablespoons of Olive Oil (enough to coat all pieces of pasta). Add in milk. Heat milk until it begins to bubble, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding.

Into milk, slowly stir in grated cheeses. Stir constantly to avoid excessive burning or sticking. Add in flour, and stir well to combine. Stir in basil, red and black pepper, as desired. Continue stirring until cheese is well combined with milk.

To ensure the proper consistency of sauce, add grated cheeses slowly. Creamier sauces will use less cheese, while a thicker sauce will take more.

Serve and enjoy!

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