If you grew up in the ‘50s or ‘60s, then you know what the “Green Box” was. Something from Kraft, like macaroni and cheese. The only variation my mother could come up with was to occasionally burn the top so that it was thick, crusty, and black.
There are better ways. The past couple of years has seen “mac and cheese” come back as a culinary force. Restaurants around the country let their chefs play with variations on this theme. Personally, I’m not so sure of the truffle oil versions. Mac and cheese is definitely home style comfort food. If you are going to boost your mac and cheese, you need something down home. Earthy.
This recipe is easy to describe. Delicious. A tad sophisticated, perhaps, but it does not strive for truffle oil heights. No, here you can control the richness level by adjusting the kinds of cheese and mushrooms you choose.
You’ll enjoy this recipe whether it’s on the day you make it or warmed over the next day. And, sure, you can even try to cook it a little longer and get that hard crust that your mother, too, might have served. This is a food that evokes the best of memories.
Mini Mac and ‘Shrooms
Servings: 8 small servings
- 1 pound mezzi rigatoni (or any small pasta shape)
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound wild mushrooms, such as shiitake or oyster, stemmed and sliced
- 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
- 8 ounces taleggio or brie cheese, rind removed, cubed (about 1½ cups)
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes (make note of directions on the box itself). Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup cooking water.
Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Cook, stirring, until the paste puffs slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking . Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is creamy, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Season with salt. Push to the side of the pan and repeat with the remaining mushrooms.
Reduce the heat under the sauce to low and whisk in both cheeses until smooth. Stir in the mushrooms and pasta and toss; adding the reserved cooking water as needed.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden; stir in the parsley. Divide the pasta among 8 small bowls. Garnish with the breadcrumb mixture.
Source: Food Network Magazine