Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Spring garden macaroni and cheese


There are lots of recipes for vegetable-laden macaroni and cheese. This is mine. Fresh asparagus, and the extravagance of Gruyere cheese, will make it quite the treat.

You'll need:

  • 3 cups macaroni (I like Barilla, which stays good and solid and doesn't overcook)
  • 3 and 1/2 cups of grated cheese, half Gruyere and half extra sharp cheddar.
  • 3-4 Tbsp butter
  • 3-4 Tbsp flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 more Tbsp butter and/or olive oil, for sauteeing vegetables
  • 1 leek, white part only, washed, diced
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, tips removed and reserved for later, stalks chopped

First, boil 3 cups macaroni in a lot of salted water.

Make a white sauce:

Melt 3-4 Tbsp butter, and when it bubbles add 3-4 Tbsp flour to it. Stir to make a paste, and after that bubbles a bit, add the milk slowly. Cook and stir as this thickens.

To the sauce, add about 1 and 1/4 cups grated Gruyere cheese, and 1 and 1/4 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese. Toss in salt and pepper to taste, and then add Dijon mustard (this is a trick taken from the big fat yellow Gourmet cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl and published in 2004). Reserve about 1 cup mixed cheeses for sprinkling later.



Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a little butter and olive oil, saute the leek, the red pepper, and the asparagus stalks, about 10 minutes in all.

When the macaroni is done and drained, combine it with the sauteed vegetables.





Mix in the finished cheese-white sauce and blend well.

Pour the macaroni, vegetable, and sauce mixture into a lightly greased 13 x 9 glass baking dish. Scatter the reserved asparagus tips and the reserved cup of cheese over the top.





Bake, covered with foil, for 25 minutes.

Almost any wine, I think, would go nicely with this, but on a warm summer day I fancy a light dry rose or something friendly and sparkling would be best of all. Recently I have sampled and thoroughly liked an Italian frizzante chardonnay called Mamertino, the label of which claims it was originally commissioned by Julius Caesar. I have no reason to doubt it.

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