Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | About Us | Terms of Service | Home RSS
 
 
 

Warm and cheesy made easy

With these scrumptious macaroni and cheese recipes, your legend as a chefo of comfort food is assured

January 3, 2020
By Susan Belsinger - Grit Magazine , Farm News

By SUSAN BELSINGER

Grit Magazine

A creamy, delicious aroma wafts through the house as a pan is taken from the oven. Family members and guests eagerly tuck in their napkins. The awaited dish couldn't be more humble, or more scrumptious: homemade macaroni and cheese, enhanced with just enough special touches to take it from ordinary to Wow!

Article Photos

-Submitted photo
All-American macaroni and cheese tops the list of favorite comfort foods for many. The first renditions of macaroni were cooked with water or broth, with cheese sprinkled on top.

As the recipes here attest, there's a reason mac 'n' cheese tops the list of favorite comfort foods for many of us. Rich and flavorful, with a texture that's easy on the mouth, it's the kind of dish that can make a cook a star without requiring a daunting amount of labor.

Any type of pasta can become a comforting plate of goodness; macaroni just happens to be among America's top choices. The term maccheroni in Italian refers to dried pasta made without egg; it comes in a variety of shapes. In North America, macaroni is generally used as a name for a tubular and bent noodle, also referred to as elbow macaroni. The first renditions of macaroni were cooked in water or broth, with cheese sprinkled on top. Macaroni in Italy is served more often with tomato sauce than au gratin (baked in a white sauce with cheese).

Some questions trouble the history of macaroni-namely, where it came from and who introduced it. The most popular version is that Marco Polo brought macaroni back from China in 1295. Food historian Clifford Wright believes the Arabs invented macaroni after they lived in Sicily, where wheat was cultivated. Macaroni shipments from Sicily to Genoa were recorded in the 1100s.

Article Links

From there, maccheroni became a popular food in Italy. Italians perfected the art of macaroni making during the Renaissance, and it became a staple food, eventually spreading throughout Europe. English colonists brought it to the New World.

The first pasta factory opened in Philadelphia in the late 1700s. Eventually, more factories opened and the price went down, allowing the working class to afford macaroni. Recipes were published in cookbooks from the 1800s.

Mac 'n' cheese today

In 1937, Kraft Foods introduced a macaroni and cheese dinner in a box, and it quickly became a favorite American comfort food. Today, Kraft claims to sell a million boxes of macaroni and cheese dinners a day.

Americans love mac 'n' cheese, as we affectionately call it. Macaroni and cheese is a culinary classic as well as a comfort food, but it's full of calories and fat. Enjoy this legendary dish as a comfort food every now and then, whether it's served as a warming winter supper or a special celebratory meal, but it may not be a food to be eaten on a regular basis.

To help cut calories, use lower fat milk, such as 2 percent (I have even made macaroni and cheese with soy milk), and use less cheese. Using whole-wheat pasta gives the dish more fiber and better nutritional value; I tend to use half whole-wheat and half semolina pasta. I add vegetables to my mac 'n' cheese to make the dish more healthful.

All-American macaroni

and cheese

A simple, homey dish, this version doesn't have a lot of spice but is a satisfying comfort food. Experiment with other cheeses; I usually use at least 1 cup cheddar, along with about 1/2 to 1 cup of smoked Swiss cheese.

1 pound macaroni, bowtie, or shell noodles, cooked al dente, drained in a colander, tossed with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 clove pressed garlic, and seasoned lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chopped onion

4 tablespoons unbleached flour

2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed

4 cups whole milk, divided

11/2 teaspoons paprika

11/2 teaspoons mustard powder

2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme and/or marjoram, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme and/or marjoram leaves, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups grated cheddar cheese, plus 1/2 cup for topping, divided

4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, optional

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter 2-quart baking dish; set aside.

Cook pasta while preparing sauce; follow instructions above for draining in colander.

In nonreactive saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flour and stir for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute more. Add 1 cup milk and stir well to blend. Add remaining milk, whisking to get rid of any lumps. Add paprika, mustard powder, thyme and/or marjoram, salt, and pepper.

When sauce is hot, sprinkle in 1 cup cheese and stir well. When melted, add second cup cheese and stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place half the macaroni in bottom of prepared dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover with half the sauce. Repeat with remaining macaroni and cover with remaining sauce.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes; spread remaining 1/2 cup cheese over top and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow dish to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

South-of-the-border

macaroni and cheese

This is a zesty version of mac 'n' cheese. Roasted chilies are delicious here, and I've used Southwestern herbs like cumin and cilantro to complement this dish. If you do not like cilantro, use Italian oregano instead, or some parsley combined with the more piquant Greek or Mexican oreganos. If you don't like it too spicy, then use all cheddar.

1 pound macaroni, bowtie, or shell noodles, cooked al dente, drained in colander, tossed with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 clove pressed garlic, and seasoned lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chopped onion

4 tablespoons unbleached flour

2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed

4 cups whole milk, divided

1 teaspoon paprika

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and ground

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided

1 cup grated jalapeno or habanero Jack cheese, divided

1/2 cup salsa

About 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro leaves

4 to 6 large green chilies, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips

1 cup tortilla chips, crushed

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter 2-quart baking dish; set aside.

Cook pasta while preparing the sauce; follow instructions above for draining in colander.

In nonreactive saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flour and stir for 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute more. Add 1 cup milk and stir well to blend. Add remaining milk, whisking to get rid of any lumps. Add paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper.

When sauce is hot, sprinkle in half the cheeses and stir well. When melted, add half the remaining cheeses and stir well. Stir in salsa and cilantro; remove from heat. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. Toss cooked macaroni with green chilies. Place half the macaroni and chilies in bottom of prepared dish; season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread half the sauce over macaroni. Repeat another layer with remaining macaroni and chilies mixture and sauce; spread remaining cheese over top. Scatter crushed tortilla chips over top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow dish to stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Veggie macaroni

and cheese

This is a sumptuous, substantial, one-dish meal. Use any vegetables you like- sweet bell peppers, squash, eggplant, onions, and mushrooms are all good oven-roasted or grilled-in a combination of just two or three or all of them. Experiment with your veggies according to what's in season; sometimes I use broccoli and orange winter squash or carrots, or leeks or asparagus with mushrooms. I love the flavor of shiitakes, though domestic mushrooms, or even dried and reconstituted porcini mushrooms work well in this dish.

Made in the traditional style of the Italian bechamel, this recipe calls for parmesan; however, feel free to improvise. If you are feeding an unadventurous group, use traditional cheddar. You can halve this recipe to serve less since it does make a lot; or better yet, divide it into two casserole dishes, have one for supper, and freeze the other.

For the roasted veggies:

6 to 8 cups raw vegetables, cut into large bite-sized pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Few sprigs of Italian oregano, or generous 1 teaspoon dried leaves, crumbled

Heat oven to 400 F. Spread veggies on large baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over veggies, generously season with salt and pepper, and toss with oregano. Roast veggies 20 to 25 minutes, turning occasionally, or in grill basket over medium-hot fire. The vegetables should be cooked al dente since they will be baked in the casserole. Once cooked, there will be about 4 to 6 cups veggies, since they cook down. (This can be done ahead of time-even the night before.)

For the casserole:

1 pound macaroni, bowtie, or shell noodles, cooked al dente, drained in colander, tossed with 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1 clove pressed garlic, and seasoned lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 bay leaves

1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed, and torn into pieces

8 to 10 large cloves garlic, slivered lengthwise

4 tablespoons unbleached flour

2 cups whole milk and 2 cups cream, or 4 cups half-and-half, divided

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh minced Italian oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried Italian oregano, crumbled

3 pinches cayenne pepper

Scant 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

2/3 cup dried breadcrumbs mixed with 1/3 cup Parmigiano

Heat oven to 350 F. Butter 2- to 3-quart baking dish; set aside.

Cook pasta while preparing sauce; follow instructions above for draining in colander.

In nonreactive saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add bay leaves and mushrooms, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and stir 1 minute more. Add flour and stir for 3 minutes. Stir in 1 cup milk/cream and stir well to blend. Add remaining milk/cream, whisking to get rid of any lumps. Add oregano, cayenne, and nutmeg; season with salt and pepper.

When sauce is hot, sprinkle in half the cheese and stir well. When melted, add remaining cheese; stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place half the cooked vegetables in bottom of prepared dish and spread half the macaroni over vegetables. Season lightly with salt and pepper; spoon half the sauce over all. Repeat another layer with remaining vegetables, macaroni, salt, pepper, and sauce. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over top.

Bake for about 25 minutes. If top isn't golden brown, place dish under broiler for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired. Yields 8 main-dish servings, or 12 side-dish servings.

Excerpted from Grit. To read more articles from Grit, please visit www.grit.com, or call 800-803-7096. Copyright 2020 by Ogden Publications Inc.

 
 

 

I am looking for:
in:
News, Blogs & Events Web