It’s getting into the chilly part of the year again so I decided to make some traditional macaroni and cheese. I didn’t bother to take any pictures (well, one phone picture of my mise en place to post to Twitter) or any of the other things that I have done for recipes in the past, but I figured I would write down what I did in case I hadn’t published it before (I probably have but you’re not going to search the history, are you?) Be prepared for an idiosyncratic mix of US customary and metric measures, because I’m like that.
- 375 g fusilli
- 7 g Parmigiano Reggiano (actually, you should use more, probably about 30 g/1 oz, but 7 g is what I had), grated on the weird star-shaped holes of a box grater
- 225 g (8 oz) of firm melting cheese (I used half each of Le Gruyère AOC and Kaltbach Emmental, because that’s what I saw in the store), shredded on the large holes of a box grater
- 1 small yellow onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed in a garlic press or minced at the last minute
- 2 cups of lowfat milk, hot
- 1 oz all-purpose flour
- 1 oz unsalted butter
- whole nutmeg, a pinch grated on a rasp at the last minute
- ½ tsp fresh grated white pepper
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1½ cup frozen peas
- 300 g cooked ham, ¼-inch dice
First cook the fusilli in boiling salted water according to package directions (don’t stint on the salt), and drain in a colander. Rinse out the pot and wipe dry, then return to the stove.
The rest of the recipe proceeds as a bog-standard sauce Mornay, except that I didn’t have any shallots so I substituted the grated onion and garlic. Melt the butter over medium-low heat, then add the grated onion and cook until disintegrated and any water has boiled off. Add the salt and pepper and the crushed or minced garlic and stir, cooking until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook about a minute to form a roux. While whisking constantly, add hot milk. When the Béchamel sauce begins to boil, the roux has reached its maximum thickening power (if you think it’s too thick at this stage, add more milk). Grate in a pinch of nutmeg (it’s traditional). Reduce heat to low and add shredded cheese a handful at a time, stirring between each addition until it is fully melted. Stir in frozen peas and ham, making sure that the sauce returns to a simmer after both additions. Stir in cooked fusilli and mix until completely coated with sauce.
Pack the pasta and sauce mixture into a 20 cm×10 cm round ceramic soufflé dish and let cool slightly while preheating the oven to 375°F. Immediately before putting the dish into the oven, top evenly with the Reggiano. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until hot all the way through and the cheese on top is melted. (Give it a few minutes under the broiler if you like; I didn’t, because I don’t really like crunchy pasta.) Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 6; approximately 540 kcal per serving.