For a cozy Friday night dinner at home we decided to make Ina Garten’s Grown Up Mac and Cheese. Kim tells how making this winter time treat went.
Since we are going without meat and poultry for Lent, I skipped the first step in the recipe that involved cooking and crumbling bacon. Having never made the recipe before, I was not sure if it would be missed or not–more on this in a moment. I first did all of the prep work of getting the pasta water ready to boil, preheating the oven to 400 degrees, measuring out the two cups of pasta (I used cavatappi, which has a very fun spiral shape), a cup and a half of milk, and two tablespoons each of butter and flour. I then turned my attention to the best part: grating the cheese. I grated four ounces of Gruyère and then three ounces of a New York sharp white cheddar. For the blue cheese, rather than Roquefort, which is a sheep’s milk blue cheese, I used a local sheep’s milk blue cheese, Old Chatham Hudson Valley Ewe’s Blue.
I had breadcrumbs around and opted to use those instead of making my own and added two tablespoons of chopped basil them as the recipe suggested and set aside.
I put the pasta into the boiling salted water with a drizzle of olive oil and set the timer for six minutes. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, I gently heated the milk and in a separate medium sauce pan, melted the butter. I then whisked in the flour and cooked the mixture for two minutes. I then slowly added the hot milk and cooked for an additional two minutes. I used fat-free milk so had to cook it and additional minute for it to become a bit thicker. I think next time I would use milk with a little fat in it just to have a slightly better consistency but if all I had was fat-free, I would use it again without hesitation.
By now it was time to check on the pasta which needed just an additional 30 seconds. I drained the pasta and returned my attention to the milk, butter, flour mixture. I turned off the heat and added the three cheeses, along with salt, pepper and nutmeg. I then stirred in the pasta. I then poured the mac and cheese into the two gratin dishes that I had set on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper. I was glad I did this because some of the cheese mixture spilled over just a bit. I sprinkled the basil/bread crumb combination on top and they were ready to go into the oven. I set the timer for 35 minutes.
With the gratins in the oven, I could pull together a simple salad of mixed greens and fresh herbs (I used parsley, chives, and basil) and make a lemon-Dijon vinaigrette. Tony was then kind enough to come in do the dishes for me.
As the mac and cheese cooked, it began to smell incredible after about 20 minutes and we could hardly wait to try it. It was perfect after 35 minutes and we were definitely ready to give it a try!
This was most definitely mac and cheese for grown ups! The combination of the three cheeses was just incredible and the blue cheese was an amazing addition. We both honestly can say that we didn’t miss the bacon in it at all. I’m really glad that I decided to do only a simple salad with the mac and cheese–I think anything heavier would have been too much! I am also glad that I decided to make this in winter–this is comfort food at the highest level and I can’t imagine enjoying this in warmer months as much as we did on a cold, winter night.
Grown Up Mac and Cheese was an incredibly flavorful and decadent dish and we savored every single rich, creamy bite. It paired very nicely with Wines by the Flask’s suggestion of 2013 Statti Lamezia from Calabria. That said, it was so very special tasting, I think the next time I make this, I’ll real up the game and pair it with Champagne.