The Cellar at Beecher's Handmade Cheese in New York City is a favorite neighborhood spot. I've been lucky enough to spend a few nights there among frieds, with more than a cocktail each and a shared order of mac and cheese. The problem is the Kale and Mama Lil's Pickled Peppers version of their macaroni and cheese is too good to share, and it's hard to be a good dinner date when you're focused on hoarding all the pepper nubs for yourself. So one weekend I stopped in at the store upstairs and bought my own jar of Mama Lil's and a wedge of their cheddar-like Flagship on my way out, and with the substitution of mustard greens for the kale--which adds a welcome extra bite--and a few twists on how Ina Garten taught me to make macaroni and cheese, I was rewarded with my own stash. No sharing required.
(And should you be feeling lazy, Beecher's will ship their "world's best mac and cheese" right to your door!)
elbow macaroni or cavatelli
(1 stick) unsalted butter
(3 cups) sharp cheddar cheese, grated
(2 cups) young fontina, gruyere, or other mild melting cheese, grated
hot pickled peppers in oil, such as Mama Lil's
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt. Blanch the mustard greens in the salted boiling water, removing the greens after two minutes and plunging immediately into a bowl of ice water. Leave salted water boiling on stove.
Add pasta to boiling water, cook according to package instructions until al dente.
While pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Heat milk until warm, but not boiling. This can be done in a bowl set up as a double-boiler over the pasta water, or in 30-second increments in the microwave. In a second saucepan, melt butter. Once melted, add flour and whisk until smooth. Cook roux for 3 minutes, whisking over low heat. Whisk in warm milk in a slow stream, and cook for another 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove sauce from heat. Whisk in mustard and cheese, stir until melted and smooth.
Drain mustard greens and pat dry. Remove stems, and coarsely chop leaves into bite-sized pieces.
If peppers are packed whole or in large strips, julienne into small rings or slices. Combine drained pasta, cheese sauce, chopped mustard greens, and pickled peppers. Drain off most of the oil from the peppers before adding, but by all means include any oil coating the peppers. Mix well.
Pour mixture into baking dish or individual ramekins. Bake 30 minutes (12-15 minutes for ramekins) until sauce is bubbling and macaroni has browned around the edges.
Macaroni can also be frozen after step 5, and reheated in the oven or microwave.