Monday, June 17, 2013

Creamy (Not Pasty) Macaroni & Cheese

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Well, it's the Monday after my big day making desserts for a friend's actual BIG DAY. With the help of a dear friend, and by stepping on a few toes, I think I pulled it off: the desserts were delicious and pretty. Overall, I feel good about it. One thing I did mess up on, though, were my mascarpone frosting calculations. Somehow I ended up with seven 8 oz. containers of the stuff after all was said and done. So, I've started researching recipes that call for mascarpone. I've found a few good ones, but they will all take time (like the mascarpone ice cream that will be turned into some sort of tiramisu ice cream, which means I will be trying my hand at making ladyfingers as well). 
On my way home from my summer job (teaching a blogging class and Writers' Workshop), I actually had time to think. I was hungry, though, so I started thinking about lunch too. My thoughts of lunch and mascarpone collided, and it dawned on me that I've been going about my pursuit of the perfect homemade mac and cheese all wrong. I've been using recipes that call for making a roux with butter and flour, and then I end up with a pasty clump of inedible cheesy pasta-like stuff. I thought about my Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli. That sauce is creamy and doesn't clump. Of course, it always ends up soaking into the pasta and leaving very little creaminess, but at least it's not pasty. At any rate, I decided to base a mac and cheese on that method of sauce making, using a bit of mascarpone as one of the cheeses. I also had some Gorgonzola left from making Green Salad with Craisins, Gorgonzola, etc. 
So, what I did was what you see pictured above and detailed below. I'm happy enough with the results. It's tasty, but very, very rich. I have a "main dish" tag on it, but I think it would work better as a small side dish. Maybe even as a side dish for that delicious salad. Hmmmm...
Unfortunately my eating buddy, Ezra was not too impressed, so now I have a big bowl of pasta that I will be solely responsible for. For now, I've eaten plenty--more than I should have eaten, and I'll have to wait until I have some other mac and cheese lovers come over before I make it again. At least now I have a recipe I like. Almost as much as I like the mac and cheese from the blue box. I'm serious.
Note: I think you can use whatever cheese you have around the house. I just happened to have these three. I do think the mascarpone added to the creaminess, though. I'm no expert, but I liked it.

Creamy (Not Pasty) Macaroni & Cheese

  • 1/2 pound pasta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated medium or sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch 
  • 4 teaspoons cold water
Prepare pasta according to package instructions until it is al dente. Pour much of the water out into the serving bowl (this will warm the bowl so your mac and cheese stays warm longer). Pour pasta and remaining water into a colander and allow pasta to drain in the sink while you prepare the cheese sauce.
Put a large pot (I use the same pot I used for the pasta) over medium heat and melt the butter. Add chopped garlic and allow garlic to soften as you add the black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir. Add milk, stir, and bring milk to a simmer. Add the Gorgonzola and whisk to melt cheese. Add the cheddar cheese and whisk some more. Then whisk in the mascarpone and whisk until smooth and all cheeses are melted. 
Add the drained pasta back to the pot and stir with a spoon until liquid comes to a simmer. At this point, quickly mix the corn starch and cold water, pour into the pasta mixture and stir with a spoon until sauce is thick and coats the pasta.
Drain the hot pasta water from the serving bowl, and then pour the macaroni and cheese into the serving bowl.
Makes 5-6 large servings or 10-12 side dish servings (in my opinion)

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