I am a huge macaroni & cheese fan. I just love it. Especially with bread crumbs on top, and I love broccoli in it too. But even though I have quite the macaroni & cheese recipe collection (like this one, and this one, and then there’s this one), I am always looking for new ways to make this old classic. I stumbled upon this recipe at the King Arthur Flour website (my favorite flour, by the way, plug plug, and rapidly becoming my favorite resource for new recipes) and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor and wipe the drool from my mouth. Garlic & herbs? Panko breadcrumbs? White sharp cheddar? Sign me up!
Now let me just say right here that I do not condone people trying to make this dish, or any other dish, “fat free.” I like my food real, with real butter, real milk, and 100% whole milk cheese. If it comes down to eating fat-free macaroni & cheese or a white cheddar rice cake, I’d honestly rather have the rice cake. There are tons of recipes floating around, and it pisses me off. I get the Food Network magazine, and open it, and there’s a recipe for macaroni & cheese with cauliflower in it to lower the calories and still keep it thick, etc, etc. That’s a bunch of crap. Give me CHEESE in my macaroni & cheese, not a vegetable that pretends to be cheese! If there’s a vegetable in my macaroni & cheese, it better be broccoli and it better not be pureed. I am 120% against fake things: fake friends, fake people. Which is why I hate copycats. They’re like a bad attempt at the original, and it’s usually very transparent, and never works out. That’s probably my #1 pet peeve, actually. And in the same vein, I am 1,000% against fake food. Except for Coke Zero, which my feelings for are similar to how a crack addict feels about crack. But when it comes to food- seriously, use the real shit or don’t make it. The exception to the rule: vegans. You guys get a free pass *wink* But really, sometimes you have to admit, stuff like Smart Balance is the worst thing to ever happen to mankind. It’s like rubber- you can’t even spread it! You will never, ever catch me using that stuff. *shivers* And fat-free cheese is completely vomitous. It doesn’t melt properly and tastes like, well, fat-free cheese. The real thing is always better. Check out this NPR transcript, I have a feeling this guy would agree.
Of course… there are people with health problems. They have high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. My uncle has diabetes, and I know for a fact that while he’s super strict about his diet (and always has been), he’s snuck something here and there that wasn’t an “approved” food, and he’s still here. And I know tons of people with high cholesterol. And the majority of those people eat foods like this in extreme moderation. Smaller portions, and not as frequently. And it works. You are not supposed to eat macaroni & cheese everyday any more than you’re supposed to eat Hershey’s chocolate. Same concept for weight loss. I lost 50 pounds & got back down to a size 6 (and ultimately a 4) in less than a year by eating LESS (and exercising). Not by restricting myself and being miserable eating nothing but rabbit food & low-fat meals. I enjoy everything I eat 100% or I don’t bother eating it. If you like macaroni & cheese- make it. And eat it. And ENJOY it. Just don’t make it everyday and eat the entire pan. Enjoy your food, food is one of the few real pleasures we have in life. Be real and eat real.
Okay so here we go… back to the goods. I made a few changes to the recipe, but nothing major. For one, I didn’t use a garlic oil, perse, instead I have a large jar of minced garlic in olive oil in my fridge, and I simply measured out some of the oil and used that. I guess that is garlic oil, really, but it’s not the kind the recipe suggests. I also used a bit more than called for, maybe a teaspoon more. I used twice the amount of cheese- that’s 4 cups- and I used Wisconsin sharp cheddar because I didn’t want to be bothered going to buy Cabot. But Cabot is awesome cheese. I omitted the cheese powder completely. Nor did I use the mustard powder. Not a big fan of Mean Mr. Mustard.
GARLIC & HERB “WHITE” MACARONI ‘N’ CHEESE
- 1 pound pasta (I always use cavatappi/celentani)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ¾ cups milk
- 2 ounces Vermont cheese powder, optional
- 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard powder, optional
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
- 2 ounces butter
- 2 teaspoons garlic oil, optional
- 2 teaspoons pizza seasoning or rosemary and thyme
- 2 ½ ounces Japanese panko (coarse bread crumbs)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease four 1 ½ to 2-cup ramekins, or one 2-quart baking dish.
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente (slightly firmer than you would normally eat it). Drain, & set aside.
- In a large saucepan set over medium heat, whisk together the flour, milk, and cheese powder. Bring to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and seasonings. Stir occasionally, until cheese is completely melted.
- Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce. Spoon it into the baking dish(es).
- Melt the butter and garlic oil together, then stir in the pizza seasoning and panko bread crumbs. Sprinkle a thick layer over the pasta and cheese.
- Bake the casserole for 25 to 35 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned. Remove from the oven, and serve hot.
You can use any kind of tubular pasta for this- I always use cavatappi, it’s my favorite. But rigatoni, ziti or shells would be awesome too. I try and stay away from elbows, just because it reminds me of my grammar school hot-lunch macaroni & cheese (which was pretty good actually, but I don’t really want to be reminded of it now when eating my dinner). I think it’s fun to try different kinds of pasta for things, you’d be surprised at how it can change your entire perception of the dish.
If you’ve never used panko before, I highly suggest it. I find them to have a fantastic crunch when used for frying, as opposed to the way regular breadcrumbs seem to just absorb moisture, and on the top of this it retained it’s crunch despite not being completely browned. The garlic & herb in the topping was something I never would’ve thought of, but damn…
How was it?