Macaroni and Cheese is my idea of comfort food. I still have fond memories of that bright orange mac and cheese from a box. But I'm grown up now and have become a foodie, oh ok, I confess, I am a Food Snob. There, I've come out of the box, if you don't like it, well.... whatever. But, what it means is that I can never go back to the box. Mac and Cheese must be made from scratch now.
My latest version of Mac and Cheese also incorporates goodies from the garden. Years ago I found a recipe for baked macaroni and cheese with cauliflower and jalapeno peppers. That recipe has evolved into the version that I made last night and am posting today.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Romanesco
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup bread crumbs made from day old bread
1/2 pound ziti, cooked and drained
---or elbow macaroni, penne, etc
14 ounces Romanesco, cut into bite size florets,
---steamed until crisp tender
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/3 cups milk
12 ounces sharp white cheddar
fresh ground pepper and nutmeg to taste
1 ounce (or more) truffle butter, totally optional
---(that foodie embellishment)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8-cup baking dish, such as an oval gratin dish, with 1/2 tablespoon of butter and coat with about 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs. Melt the other tablespoon of butter and toss the remaining breadcrumbs with it.
Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, whisking constantly. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring often (I switch to a silicon spatula at this point), until it thickens and just begins to boil, about 5 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Season with fresh ground pepper and a touch of nutmeg. Taste for salt, I added none. Stir in the truffle butter if using it.
Put the cooked pasta and Romanesco into a large mixing bowl. Pour the cheese sauce over all and stir to mix. Put into the prepared baking dish, packing it in a bit, and sprinkle the buttered bread crumbs over the top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. Start checking after 25 minutes (my oven is incredibly unreliable and should never be used for recipe testing!).
Makes 3 to 4 servings, depending on your appetite!
A glass of good Pinot Noir really helped to cut the richness of this dish.