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Pasta

To bake a casserole of mac&cheese was one of my hidden dreams. Yeah, hidden…’cause i did not know I wanted to cook them, ’till the day I received this book by Martha Stewart (there she goes again lol). It is amazing to read how the American cook is a-hundred-in-one. Meaning that it is a mix of cooks from all over the world, revised and adapted by the immigrants. The result is an interpretation of different original and traditional dishes, modified and enriched.

Like Mac&Cheese. We could say this is the evolution of the Italian ‘maccheroni al forno’ (oven maccheroni). With some big differences: first, Italian Maccheroni are not the American Macaroni (totally different shape); second, a huge amount of melted cheese to add.

Honestly, the idea of mixing besciamella (the sauce you obtain mixing flour, butter and milk – which is a foundamental of French and Italian cooks) and a ton of cheese scared me a bit…but I learnt to try before judging and this time I was right. Even my dad – who is by definition not very fond of other cooks, except for the Italian one – said it tasted ‘not bad at all!’. I took it as his higher expression of satisfaction 😉

MAC&CHEESE

Prep Time: 25 min             Baking Time: 30 min

  • 6 tablespoons (85gr) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
  • 5 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar or gouda
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated gruyere or hemmentaler
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
Steps:
1. Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone (bite a macarone, the inner part should be still white and quite hard. In Italy we call this way of cooking ‘al dente‘).  Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk (you can either use the microwave). Melt butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles (but it’s not brown yet!!), add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar or gouda, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or Hemmentaler. Keep on stirring until smooth and perfectly mixed.
5.  Stir macaroni into the cheese sauce.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar or gouda and 1/2 cup gruyere or hemmentaler; Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. To give a crunchier top, raise the oven temperature to the max and switch the grill on for 3 to 5 min (check the color).
7. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.
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