For the mac and cheese! | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 27, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 27, 2020

The Millennial Cook

For the mac and cheese!

A glossy, gooey, cheesy sauce covering every crevice and arch of macaroni, served piping hot in a bowl that can be enjoyed at any time of the day — this sounds like the perfect comfort food, and it surely is! You might have guessed it by now, it is macaroni and cheese that is being glorified here.

Albeit macaroni and cheese has its roots deeply etched in the Italian cuisine, its vast popularity enabled it to have its own renditions in various parts of the world. While in Brazil, cream cheese is a core ingredient, and in Egypt, people prefer to have it in pie form, all variants of the dish are delicious nevertheless.

Mac and cheese is unquestionably a delectable food to savour given the minimal effort and ingredients it requires for its appetising taste, not to mention it can be put together very quickly as well. It is a well-suited food to prepare even for amateur cooks that can bring about amazing results without failure. 

Whether you like to serve it for brunch on lazy mornings or use it as company while binge watching movies, a good bowl of macaroni and cheese never fails to warm up the soul. Thus, here are four variations of scrumptious mac and cheese for you to relish. From classic to stuffed, there is one for every occasion.      

CLASSIC MAC AND CHEESE

This classic recipe of macaroni and cheese is easy to make and a must-try. It is quick to cook, requiring minimal preparation and is also a versatile recipe where you can use this as a base and add other ingredients and condiments as per your preference.

Ingredients

2 cups elbow pasta

60g butter

3 tbsp flour

2½ cups milk

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper powder

½ tsp chilli flakes

1 tbsp chopped parsley

Method

Add enough water in a pot to cover the stated amount of pasta with plenty of salt and bring it to a boil. Once it reaches a rolling boil stage, drop the pasta and let it cook uncovered for about 15 minutes or until al dente.

Meanwhile, place a pan on medium-high heat and add 60 grams of butter to it. Once the butter is melted, add 3 tablespoons of flour in small amounts and stir continuously using a whisk. Cook this for a couple of minutes while still stirring to cook off the raw flour taste. This is the base of the sauce, which is also known as a roux.

Next, gradually add in 2½ cups of milk in a steady stream while whisking continuously. Once the milk is fully incorporated, add 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese and stir well. The sauce should be thick and bubbly by now.

After that, add in the condiments including salt and crushed black pepper — check for seasoning and add accordingly as the saltiness also depends upon the sharpness of cheese. Then, add in the chopped parsley and chilli flakes and reserve a little for garnish.

Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the cheese sauce. Stir to combine and serve piping hot with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and chilli flakes atop.   

SEAFOOD MAC AND CHEESE

If you are a fan of seafood pasta, but the very thought of cooking seafood concerns you, then worry not because this recipe is a fool proof way to cook seafood at home. It eliminates the rubbery texture that homemade seafood often has and is sure to tantalise your taste buds.  

Ingredients

2 cups macaroni

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 tbsp chopped coriander

For the sauce —

50g butter

2 tbsp flour

2½ cups milk

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 

For the seafood —

500g seafood mix

2 tbsp oil

1 onion

1 garlic glove

1½ tsp salt

1 tsp crushed black pepper

½ tsp chilli powder

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp garlic powder

2 tsp Cajun spice

1 tsp mixed herbs

Method

Cut and prepare your selection of seafood into bite-sized pieces; this recipe includes a mix of shrimp, squid, octopus, and cuttlefish. Add spices, including turmeric, chilli powder, salt, black pepper powder, garlic powder, Cajun spice, and mixed herbs to the prepared seafood. Mix this well and let it marinate for about 30 minutes. Also, finely chop the onion and garlic clove.

Next, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and drop the macaroni in it. Let this boil until fully cooked while still firm. Meanwhile, cook the seafood; in a pan add 2 tablespoons of oil and allow it to heat up. Drop the seafood mix and cook for a couple of minutes while stirring.

The seafood will release moisture so cover this and allow it to cook for 10-15 minutes, or until all the moisture evaporates. Stir 2-3 times in between ensuring all sides are equally heated. Once fully cooked, remove the seafood onto a plate using a slotted spoon.

In the same pan, add in 50 grams of butter and let it melt. Add chopped onions followed by chopped garlic and cook them until translucent. Drop in 2 tablespoons of flour in two additions and whisk to combine fully. Next, pour in 2½ cups of milk in a steady stream while stirring all the while.

Following this, add in 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese to the sauce and stir — cover with a lid and let the cheese melt entirely. Meanwhile, drain the pasta using a fine mesh sieve. Once the sauce is thick and bubbling, add the seafood back, along with the cooked pasta.

Mix everything together to incorporate fully and sprinkle chopped coriander and chilli flakes on top as garnish. 

STUFFED BELL PEPPER MAC AND CHEESE

If you ever find yourself confronted with a dilemma of choosing between Bolognese pasta and macaroni and cheese, then this recipe shall be your fix. Cheesy pasta loaded with Bolognese sauce that is filled inside bell peppers and baked to perfection with a crunchy top; every spoonful of this will leave you craving for more. 

Ingredients

2 large red bell peppers

2 large green bell peppers

2 large yellow bell peppers

2 cups elbow pasta

For the Bolognese sauce —

2 tbsp olive oil

500g beef mince

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

1 cup tomato purée

1½ cup beef stock

1 tsp black pepper powder

½ tsp dried rosemary

½ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp paprika powder

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 bay leaves

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

For the cheese sauce —

50g butter

2 tbsp flour

2 cups milk

½ cup grated mozzarella cheese

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

For the topping —

¼ cup breadcrumbs

1 tbsp mixed herbs

1 tbsp butter

Method

Begin by preparing the bell peppers — chop off the tops and remove seeds from the centre, leaving a cavity in each bell pepper. Brush the exterior with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt and keep them aside. Finely dice the bell pepper scraps, onions, and garlic cloves and let the pasta cook inside a pot with salted boiling water until al dente.

To make the Bolognese sauce, add 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan followed by the chopped onion and garlic to cook them until fragrant and translucent. Next, add in the tomato paste and cook for a minute. Then add beef mince and stir to cook for about 5 minutes until it changes colour. Once in that stage, add the diced bell peppers.

Next, pour in the tomato purée along with beef stock and add the condiments including salt, black pepper powder, dried rosemary, dried thyme, paprika powder, sugar, and bay leaves. Add in balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Cover this with a lid and let it cook for 15-20 minutes until most of the moisture is evaporated and you are left with a thick Bolognese sauce.

Meanwhile, in another pan, add in butter and allow it to melt. Once molten, drop in flour and whisk until fully incorporated. Then gradually pour in milk along with shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheese and stir to combine until the cheese is completely molten. Into the cheese sauce, add the cooked pasta along with prepared Bolognese sauce and mix to combine.

Preheat your oven at 160° C and mix the breadcrumb and mixed herbs together along with butter. Scoop the mac n' cheese inside the prepared bell peppers and top generously with the breadcrumb mixture. Let them cook in the oven for 10 minutes until the tops are crunchy.

MAC AND CHEESE WITH CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES

Do you really have to ditch the mac and cheese for being a healthy eater? Not with this recipe! This macaroni and cheese recipe is loaded with the goodness of cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables that are well incorporated into the sauce, making it a great way to sneak these healthy ingredients into your diet.  

Ingredients

2 cups elbow pasta

1 head cauliflower

2 cups broccoli florets

1 cup shredded cabbage

2 tsp mustard

1 tsp lemon pepper powder

1½ tsp salt

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp mixed herbs

1½ cups milk

40g butter

2 tbsp flour

½ cup cream cheese

Method

Add enough salted water to cover the pasta completely and allow it to boil. Meanwhile, chop the cauliflower head into little bite-size chunks and do the same with broccoli. Once the pasta is cooked and al dente, drain the water using a fine-mesh sieve and reserve a cup of the starchy water.

In a blender, drop the cauliflower chunks along with the reserved pasta water in gradual additions and blend them together to make a fine purée. If the water is still hot, remove the funnel from the blender's lid and cover the top with a cloth while using it. The cauliflower purée should have a thick consistency.  

In a pan, add the butter followed by flour and whisk them together for a couple of minutes until the raw flour taste is cooked off completely. Next, add in the shredded cabbage followed by salt, garlic powder, mixed herbs, and lemon pepper powder. Stir everything together and cover the pan with a lid in order to allow the cabbage to fully cook, for about 10 minutes.

Next, gradually add in milk while stirring simultaneously. Add the cauliflower purée along with mustard and cream cheese and stir to attain a homogenous mixture. Lastly, add the cooked pasta into this concoction along with broccoli florets and stir to combine. 

 

Food and Photo: Fariha Amber

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