Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mac and Cheese - My Way

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.


  1. OMG, I am just moving into your house. LOL!

    I'll try this recipe this weekend. I keep trying to make good homemade mac and cheese, but haven't found the right combo yet.

  2. Susan, I hope this one makes the grade! Some of those roasted peppers you showed in a previous post would be a really tasty addition instead of truffle.

  3. Hi Michelle I have never tasted Macaroni and cheese, but your recipe sound delicious with the Romanesco bites in it and then a glass of red to go with it. Got to try it/ Tyra

  4. Hi Tyra, I hope you like it! And the red wine really is a must have with this dish. ;)

  5. Oh, I wish I could get my kid to eat home-made mac & cheese! It is every kindergartner's fav dish, it seems, but only from the box. Ugh. If there are veggies in anything, she won't touch it. So sad for me! Yours looks delicious. Maybe I'll try it and she can eat the parts she likes and the parents can have everything!

  6. Karen, maybe if you used orange colored cheddar she would eat it! I certainly ate my fair share of mac and cheese from a box when I was a kid and, I cringe to think of it now, Spaghettios from a can. Bleah!

  7. YUM...I adore mac and cheese. I've never had it out of the box, my mom was a complete food snob and wouldn't allow it in the house, lol! I am always looking for a new way to make the great stuff...I'm going to have to give your's a try, thanks! Kim

  8. Mac and cheese is our favorite. I have several recipes, including one that calls for making it from the box. And to make it worse, I dress it up with a packet of Lowry's Taco Seasoning. None of my recipes call for nutmeg tho'...interesting!

  9. Oh Kim, you lucky girl, my mom has never been anthing like a food snob. I have only myself to blame for that condition!

    Chuck, Lowry's taco seasoning sounds pretty good actually, although it may be a bit too salty for me.

  10. A good glass of Pinot Noir goes good with anything! I am not eating pasta at this time but when I do I will try this recipe. Do you have to use so much butter in it however?
    I love this blog!! I want to grow capers on my property and found this blog on a google search. I have almost an acre I can grow on and have been considering capers for a while. I live in the foothills of Sonora east of you and have read that our climate is perfect for them. What do you think?
    thanks for the great blog...

  11. Jana, there is a lot of butter in there! You could skip coating the pan with butter and breadcrumbs and reduce the butter in the breadcrumb topping. I suppose you could try making the sauce with less butter also... And leave out the truffle butter, perhaps use some truffle salt instead.

    I think that capers would love your climate. Do you know if olive trees grow well there? That's kind of a rule of thumb, if olives do well then capers will also. I don't think that you are at high enough elevation for freezing temperatures to be a problem and the capers would love your summer heat. You would probably have to irrigate them at first to get them established, and perhaps even occasionally once they get going to keep them producing buds.

    Thanks for the comment, it's great that you like my blog! :)


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