Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Not Your Blue Box Mac & Cheese

The Husband had a birthday last week, which meant that we Extravaganza-ed all week.  I promise I will post of our various outings, but this post is dedicated to the ooey gooey deliciousness that is Mac and Cheese.

The Father-in-Law has a dream of someday opening up his own Mac and Cheese restaurant. The menu would be filled with every kind of combination of Cheese and Pasta, and the people will sigh with delight and make little happy dances as they eat bites.  So The Husband loves the cheesy, gooey, pasta.

 I, on the other hand, came from a family that despised it. When I was growing up, all my parents could afford while The Dad was in residency was the Blue Box, and so we ate a lot of it.  The Mom can’t stand the stuff because of that, so while the fancy gourmet home-made stuff is TOTALLY different, it shared a common name of Mac & Cheese, and so we never really ate it (unless one of my siblings begged for a Blue Box and The Mom would look at them with derision and throw up a little in her mouth as she placed the box in the shopping cart).

Also, I came from a family that didn’t really eat anything cream or dairy based, so that didn’t really help.  And I’m sure you’re wondering, NOTHING dairy-based? And I say again, nothing. Pretty much everyone in my family is lactose intolerant.  We put salt and pepper on corn and baked potatoes instead of butter; we didn’t really drink milk (I call it eating milk, because it’s a damn meal),  we all really dislike yogurt and The Mom loves salty stuff, so we rarely had ice cream in the house.  So if we weren’t drinking milk, I can assure you we weren’t eating Alfredo Sauces. 

We also didn’t have anything but oil and vinegar on our salads, and it was always dressed when it came to the table. The Youngest Sister went to a friend’s house for dinner when she was in elementary school. There was a bottle of Ranch dressing on the table, she pointed to it and asked what it was.  The family she was eating with stopped what they were doing and looked at her like she had just said an alien had abducted her the evening before. They then proceeded to explain to her it was salad dressing and had her try some.  I realize it isn’t normal to not know what ranch dressing is (since it’s a staple in most American homes) or to never have had butter on your corn or potatoes, but that’s how we grew up.  I should add here, that I am not lactose intolerant. I’m actually lactose SUPER tolerant, I love me some cheese. But because I never really ate any of that stuff, I just don’t really like it.

And because of this, and because I do the cooking in our home, The Husband, who came from a family of butter on your potatoes and ranch dressing on your pizza (still grosses me the heck out!), never gets to eat creamy foods.  So once or twice year, on his birthday and maybe some time in the winter, I make a dish that I don’t eat a whole lot of, but makes him super happy and then he has leftovers for a few days and can nosh.

So this year I used a recipe that The Husband had found, a Goat Cheese and Pesto Mac and Cheese.  And again, because it’s me, I added more pesto and crunchy top and threw in a few other things (like I used the crunchy top to break chicken and baked it and served in on the side). And I have to say, this was my favorite creamy pasta recipe I’ve made yet. Also, I love goat cheese and pesto, so that helped.  This is not for someone looking to be healthy; it is total artery clogging happiness.  The above recipe says this is a side, we had it for dinner. Obviously. I mean, I Didn’t Get Fat Accidently.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for baking dish
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup finely chopped basil leaves
1 ½  cup panko bread crumbs
1 ¾  cups Parmesan
1 pound good Orecchiette
2 cups heavy cream
16 ounces good soft goat cheese (don’t get the hard stuff people)
¾   cup pesto sauce  (recipe below)
kosher salt, add to taste
1 TSP freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic
2 cups of basil
½ cup of parmesan
1/3 to ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, process garlic until finely minced, add basil until finely minced, add parmesan and blend until a lighter green color. Add oil and blend until mixed, you should be able to pour it, but it shouldn’t be overly olive oily. This doesn’t have to be amazing, so just make sure you can taste basil, and garlic and you should be okay. The Pesto Advanced Class will come later. Salt and pepper to taste and if you would like to add more cheese, feel free.  Put to the side and wait

To make the Mac & Cheese:

Butter a baking dish, I used a 9 X 13. Heat oven to Broil

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in medium bowl in the microwave. Add the garlic, basil, panko, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan to the melted butter. Mix well and reserve.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta as a just in case (but honestly, I didn’t need it)

As the pasta is cooking, put the cream in a medium pot and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer until reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Once the cream is simmering, add the goat cheese and whisk until smooth. Add in the remaining Parmesan and whisk until melted. This should take about 3 minutes or so.

In your baking dish, combine the pasta , cheesy cream sauce and your fresh pesto. If you feel as though the sauce is really thick and you can’t seem to stir it, add some reserved pasta water. But honestly, it should be really creamy and seem like there may be a little too much sauce. If that is the case, then you’re solid!  Add  salt, and pepper to taste. The salt is key here, it will really help make the pasta brighter.  Once you’re done, cover with the panko mixture.

Put under the broiler until the mixture bubbles and the top is browned. Our oven doesn’t have a broiler on top, weird right? Anyway, this means that it takes longer for it to brown, so I out mine in for 10 minutes and check at the five minute mark, and again at the seven minute.

 Remove from the broiler and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Ooey Gooey Cheesy Happiness

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