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Jarlsberg and Ricotta Mustardy Mac and Cheese

7 Oct

As I was reading for First Amendment (which, incidentally, is the weirdest area of law I have so far encountered in my studies), I was day dreaming about what to make for lunch.  And like a bolt of lightning, it hit me – I hadn’t made mac and cheese in a good long time.  Especially not the baked variety. And, because I am a cheese monster, I knew I had all of the ingredients necessary to make a pretty bad ass version on hand.

The combination of flavors in this particular mac and cheese is really stellar.  The Jarlsberg has a pungent sharpness, the ricotta a straightforward creaminess, and the pecorino romano a sharp bite.  The vegetable stock adds a rich layer of flavor – and takes the calories down several notches, which is always a plus.  All of those flavors are reinforced and highlighted by the bright, sharp Dijon mustard and slightly sweet heat of the New Mexico chile powder.  The sauce was extremely creamy – and had that awesome, melt-y, string-y thing going on where you grab a noodle and the cheese just oozes in beautiful, bendy strings of glory.  The bottom and top of the casserole both crisped up beautifully to act as a contrast to the creamy cheese.

So if you’re looking for a slightly fancier-than-average, creamier-than-average, more-flavorful-than-average macaroni and cheese … I suggest you start shredding up some Jarlsberg.

Jarlsberg and Ricotta Mustardy Mac and Cheese

1/2 box pasta (I used penne rigate)

2 tbs. butter

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup Jarlsberg cheese, shredded

1/2 cup ricotta

1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, shredded

3 tbs. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. New Mexican chile powder

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

2-3 tbs. Italian bread crumbs

Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bring a medium sauce pan of water to a boil.  When boiling, add noodles and cook two minutes less than package instructions.

As soon as you add the noodles, melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  While whisking, slowly add flour.  Don’t worry if it is slightly clumpy toward the end.

Continuously whisking, add the vegetable stock.  Whisk until smooth and creamy.  If any liquid remains, cook until it evaporates.

Add cheese and whisk to combine into a creamy sauce.  Stir in mustard and chile powder.  Taste for seasonings, and add salt and pepper as necessary.

At this point, the noodles should be ready to drain.  Drain noodles and then add the noodles to the cheese sauce.  Stir to evenly combine.

Spray a small casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Transfer the noodles to the casserole dish.  Top with the bread crumbs and spray again with nonstick.

Transfer to the oven and bake 25-30 minutes until bread crumb topping is light golden brown and the cheese sauce bubbles.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then serve.

Decadent Three Cheese Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Artichokes

24 Jun

I had plans for a simple and healthy steamed tofu recipe, but while discussing food with my fellow law clerks at some point during the day, I began to crave macaroni and cheese.  And not just any mac and cheese, but a clog-your-arteries buttery and creamy mac and cheese, made with real butter, milk, and tons of cheese.  But I didn’t want to use the oven, because it was like 90 degrees out.  So I decided to do a stovetop version.

And, boy, was this good.  Creamy cheddar, sharp Parmesan, and tangy goat cheese combined with the unique flavor of artichoke hearts made for a seriously decadent macaroni and cheese.  Is it a quintessentially summer dish?  Hell to the no.  But it tasted really, really effing good.  It also reheated well in the microwave for lunch, which is a big bonus when you make enough mac and cheese to feed five people in a house of two.

Decadent Three Cheese Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Artichokes

1 lb. elbow macaroni

1 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

3 tbs. goat cheese

1 stick butter

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 to 3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)

1 13.75 oz. can whole artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Chili powder, to taste

Cook macaroni according to package instructions.  Let drain.

Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Once it just begins to froth, whisk in the flour in small batches until smooth.  Slowly add the milk, continuously whisking.

Working in small batches, add the cheese.  Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the cooked noodles and artichokes and stir to combine.  Stir and cook over medium heat until both noodles and artichokes are heated through.  Serve immediately topped with chili powder and dried parsley.

Roasted Mushroom and Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese

20 Feb

Though this winter has been relatively mild, there are days when the cold, dreary weather has me craving something rich, warm, and comforting.  When it comes to comfort food, for me, mac and cheese tops the list.  I upped the ante on this dish from an everday mac and cheese by adding some decadadent balsamic roasted mushrooms and choosing a high quality hickory smoked gouda and sharp dubliner cheese.  The rye bread crumbs added a buttery, flavorful crunch.  Zak and I were both happy to have leftovers of this delicious dish the next day – me, because I am sick of the to-go places around campus for lunch and Zak because, well, this is just damn good.  The great thing about this dish is that it comes together rather quickly and doesn’t take a whole lot of work, making it the perfect weeknight meal when you’re looking for something with a lot of flavor but not a lot of effort.

Roasted Mushroom and Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 box pasta shells (or shape of choice), cooked according to package instructions

8 oz. package crimini mushrooms, washed and quartered

4 tbs. olive oil, divided

1 tbs. balsamic vinegar

2.5 tbs. butter

2 tbs. whole wheat flour

3/4 cup 1% milk

1 cup hickory smoked gouda, shredded

1 cup dubliner cheese, shredded

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1 cup rye bread crumbs (or bread crumbs of choice, but the rye worked really well)

Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Line a baking sheet with tinfoil.  Toss together mushrooms, 2 tbs. olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Add to oven and roast 15-20 minutes, shaking baking sheet frequently, until mushrooms are tender and caramelized on the edges.  Set aside, but leave oven on.

When mushrooms are nearly done, add remaining olive oil and butter to a 10″ cast iron pan or other oven-proof pan.  Alternatively, you can cook in any pan and transfer the mixture to individual, oven-proof serving dishes.  Slowly whisk in flour until smooth and cook 1-2 minutes.  Add milk, constantly whisking, until a smooth sauce is formed.  Season with salt and pepper.

Constantly whisking, slowly add in cheeses, working in batches.  Once sauce is smooth, taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary.  Add mushrooms and pasta shells and stir to thoroughly coat.  Smooth into a single layer (or transfer to individual oven-proof serving dishes) and top with bread crumbs.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Alternatively, you can mix the bread crumbs with a little melted butter prior to topping.

Transfer to oven and bake 20 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese is melted and oozing.  Serve immediately.

Mac and Cheez-It

30 Oct

Yesterday, Zak and I had a friend over so they could brew some beer.  Late in the afternoon, everyone was getting hungry and I was running through a list of things I could make.  Everyone – including myself – was excited and intrigued by the prospect of some macaroni and cheese topped with crumbled Cheez-Its.

Cheez-Its have long been a favorite snack in my family.  My little brother has always loved them, and I’ve become increasingly obsessed as I get older.  They’re one of my go-to vending machine items when I forget to pack some as a snack at school.  I figured the deliciousness of a macaroni and cheese could only be increased by crumbling some cheesy little morsels of goodness on top of it.

I used a mixture of all the cheeses I happened to have on hand in this creamy and delicious version of macaroni and cheese.  The ricotta mellowed out the slight spice from the pepper jack.  The Parmesan added a hint of sharpness that contrasted really well with the colby-jack.  Topped with the sharp, pungent flavor of the cheddar Cheez-Its, this was a really lovely macaroni and cheese that we all enjoyed.

Mac and Cheez-It

1 box rigatoni, cooked according to package instructions and drained

1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

3/4 cup colby jack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

3 tbs. butter

2 tbs. whole wheat flour

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup Cheez-Its, crushed

Freshly cracked black pepper

Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350º.

Melt butter over medium-low heat in a large sauté pan.  Slowly whisk in the flour until a paste forms, adding over the course of 3-5 minutes.  Season liberally with black pepper.  Continuously whisking, add the milk.  Once smooth and creamy, add the cheese in small batches while whisking.

Add the noodles and toss to coat with the cheese sauce.

Transfer to a casserole dish.  Top evenly with the crushed Cheez-Its.  Spray with  nonstick spray and transfer to the oven.  Bake 20-25 minutes until Cheez-Its are golden brown.

Meatloaf Macaroni and Cheese

14 Oct

One of the great things about making a meatloaf is the leftovers.  In particular, the meatloaf sandwich, which is seriously delicious.  However, once I had a few of those, I started wondering what else I could do with the meatloaf I had left.  This easy pasta bake was born of my desire for some mac and cheese and my need to use as many leftovers as possible.  The meatloaf combined perfectly with the cheddar and creamy cottage cheese and really rounded out this yummy baked pasta dish.  I devoured this for lunch, happy I still had one more serving of meatloaf to make a repeat performance in the next day or two.  Any time you can combine two wonderful comfort foods into one with such harmonious result, it’s worth doing again and again.

Meatloaf Macaroni and Cheese

1 cup whole wheat pasta shells, cooked according to package instructions

1/3 cup leftover apple butter glazed meatloaf, roughly chopped

1 tbs. butter

2 tbs. whole wheat flour

1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)

1/2 cup small curd cottage cheese, drained over the sink in a mesh colander

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 325º.

In a large non-stick sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat.  A little bit at a time, whisk in the flour until a paste forms.  Slowly whisk until a smooth paste forms.  Whisk in cottage cheese and then cheddar cheese until mostly smooth.  Not all of the curds from the cottage cheese will dissolve – that’s okay.  Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Add meatloaf and noodles and toss to combine.  Transfer to an oven-proof bowl.

Bake 20 minutes until golden brown.

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