Author Notes: Mac ‘n cheese has been both a handicap and a love of mine for many years now. College opened the door to culinary freedom for me. It also presented the first time in my life that I was able to cook rubbish food (my mother is an amazing cook who tends to make everything from scratch, and she can probably count the number of times she’s had a box of mac n’ cheese in her pantry).
While on my own I went a little wild, indulging in the classic Kraft version many times a week, and enduring the ensuing stomach aches (true story). There was a brief hiatus between me and my beloved mac ‘n cheese until I moved into a job where I basically couldn’t leave my desk at all during the workday. I would scour Walgreen’s for the one-serving microwave packs and upped the ‘gourmet’ quotient with chopped tomatoes or frozen spinach. Now that I’m in the saddle with some culinary work behind me, I decided to reprise the dish with a grown-up spin.
- 1/2 pound pasta shells or elbow macaroni
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- 6 teaspoons butter
- 3 teaspoons flour
- 1 cup pasta water
- 4 teaspoons half and half
- 1/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 3 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups frozen spinach (thawed)
- few pinches salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
- Cook the pasta. Save 1 cup of the pasta water.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the minced garlic. Let the butter soak in the garlic for about a minute (be careful to not let the garlic burn).
- Whisk in the flour followed by the pasta water and the half and half. This mixture should become thick.
- Add the cheeses, whisking along the way. Make sure all of the ingredients are incorporated without lumps.
- Add the spinach and incorporate well, continuing to whisk. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
- When the sauce is seasoned to your taste (with respect to salt and pepper) add in the cooked pasta. Delicately fold the sauce into the pasta until all is well mixed. Pour into a glass baking dish. Dust breadcrumbs over the top and broil on high just until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Vegetarian Holiday Side