Some things in life probably shouldn’t be fiddled with. There are many, many people that would include Macaroni Cheese – a.k.a. Mac ‘n’ Cheese – in this category; but I totally disagree. It’s one of – if not the best – comfort food out there, but as such I think you should be allowed to adulterate it in whatever way you see fit. If it’s about comfort, then surely that is defined by what makes you comfortable? That’s why my baked Mac n Cheese has a few more ingredients that normal, to make it a little bit special.
Where I stay with the classic, is that this dish is really quick and simple to make, it’s great for weeknight dinners that you need in a hurry but don’t want to compromise on the flavour or reach for something full of ingredients you can’t pronounce.
For those still with me, I have long been a lover of customised Mac ‘n’ Cheese – be it chicken, bacon, leeks, plastic-y cheddar or gruyere, I think you should be free to mix it up as you see fit (although if your ‘cheese’ is predominately plastic, please refrain from serving it to me). Which is what I decided to do when I needed a mid-week quick comfort dinner. Baked mac ‘n’ cheese it was going to be.
This recipe takes its base from the ordinary, but uses less cheddar in favour of having mozzarella melted over the top and gets some additional flavour from red onions, bay leaves, pepper and parsley. It’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese to its core, but also a little different and more interesting, oh and it is baked a little as well. If you want to make it even more exciting, why not add some slow roasted tomatoes on top?
Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheese
This Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheese recipe is based on the way I’ve seen my mum make Macaroni Cheese over the years, but customised for my current feel-good palate. It serves two and takes less than 20 minutes to make.
150g macaroni pasta
1/2 a red onion
1 clove of garlic
1 handful of parsley
2 bay leaves
150 ml milk
1 tsp plain flour
1 ball of mozzarella
Salt and Black pepper to season
1 tsp rapeseed oil
Start of by boiling the pasta. Put on on in a pot of salted water and get it to a stage where it’s almost cooked, but still a minute or so off. Put the grill on at the same time, let it warm up.
Chop your onion up into small pieces – as small as you realistically can – and coarsely grate your cheddar.
Put the oil in a large pan – larger than you need to make a roux – and once it has warmed up add in the onion and garlic, allowing them to soften, but not brown. Start to boil the pasta.
When the onions start to soften add in most of the milk and let it start to gently heat up. In a separate bowl, mix your flour with a little milk, stirring the flour in (this is so there are no lumps when you pour it in). Pour the flour mix into the warming milk and stir it in, then pour in the cheddar (remember not to let it boil). Continue to heat and stir until it forms a thick, cheesy sauce.
One the pasta is ready, drain it and add it in to the sauce along with the parsley, stirring it all though. Taste to ensure it is properly seasoned, then tear the mozzarella into chunks and scatter over the top. Bake under the grill until the cheese has melted. Serve with crusty bread.