Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Can I lure you back with comfort food? How about some warm, savoury, coma-inducing cheesy goodness?

It's been a long time since I've posted, and to be honest it's been a long time since I've cooked. It's amazing what gets put on the standby list when the flight of life is overbooked. Time to reassess the passengers on this plane and bring the blog back on board!

Macaroni and Cheese used to be one of my sister's two favorite foods. Right out of the blue box in the pantry with the powdered cheese and skinny elbow noodles. It's still a winner with kids today--except now it may be in a purple box, sporting the words "organic" or "made with real cheese." I've made several cheesy pasta dishes before; most of them baked with a delicious crunchy topping, and I quite prefer them hot from the oven. However, this stovetop version was easy-peasy and reminiscent of a time when after school snacks were ants-on-a-log and no one had ever heard of hummus.

The ingredient list is more mature with European cheeses and a spice you  may have to go out and buy. But the mascarpone gives the dish a buttery texture on the tongue and smoked paprika complements and deepens the cheesy flavor. Try it--I bet your kids, or the kid in you, will ask for a second helping.

Stovetop Mac and Cheese
adapted from Food and Wine April 2011
I had some white pepper manchego from Valley Shepherd Creamery in NJ. You can substitute with another 2 oz of extra sharp cheddar. 4 oz is about 1 cup.

2 oz extra sharp cheddar, coarsely shredded
2 oz white pepper manchego, coarsely shredded
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cups whole milk
4 oz Fontina, coarsely shredded
1/2 c mascarpone

8 oz pipette or other short, hollow pasta

  1. In a large, deep saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and paprika and cook over moderate heat until bubbling; 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Continue to cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly until thick and creamy, about 7 minutes.
  4. Stir in the shredded cheeses and cook over low heat until melted. Off the heat, stir in the mascarpone. Taste to check seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.

    4.  Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and add to the cheese sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until hot and bubbling. Spoon into bowls and serve immediately.