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macaroni cheese

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Macaroni cheese

Contrary to what the popular belief might be, that macaroni and cheese, or mac and cheese as it’s known, is an American invention that claims no Italian roots, the dish actually did originate in 14th century Italy. Although they might not exactly have used Cheddar there.

It is number one comfort, food in America, as well as the student out-of-the-pack staple – Kraft having introduced the quick and ready mac in a box in the 1930s during the Great Depression (a genius stroke to cheer the people up…). But if you want to be posh you can call it pasta Mornay, as that’s what it is - a pasta casserole with cheesy béchamel sauce.

My twist is the added leeks – so let’s call it mac n leek n cheese, shall we? None the less comforting but maybe a smidgen less stodgy. Serve it with green salad and you’re almost being healthy!

  • INGREDIENTS
  • 1 large leek
  • a little olive oil
  • 20 g butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp. plain flour
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 350ml milk
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 60g grated Cheddar, Gruyere or Comte cheese
  • 20g Stilton or Roquefort
  • 30g freshly grated Parmesan
  • 250g dried macaroni or similar shape pasta

Pasta and cheese

METHOD
Slice the leek thinly and cook it with a little oil on low heat, covered, for about 10 minutes, until just softened.

Leeks

In a large pan (a casserole if that’s the dish you’ll eventually be baking the pasta) melt the butter, add the flour and the mustard powder and stir with a wooden spoon to make roux. Add the sliced garlic and cook it in the roux for a couple of minutes. When it turns golden start adding milk, little by little, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Bring it to a simmer, season with salt and pepper and add the nutmeg. Cook it on low heat for a few minutes, then add three quarters of the hard cheeses, all of the blue cheese and half the parmesan. Continue cooking and stirring for another 3 or 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the cooked leeks.

Mornay sauce with leeks

In the meantime boil the pasta in plenty of salted water, 2 minutes less than the package instruction. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, toss and mix it in very well.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas 7. Bake the pasta in the dish the sauce had been cooking in or transfer it to a lightly buttered gratin dish.

Mac n  cheese ready to bake

Sprinkle the rest of the cheeses over the top and bake for 30 minutes until bubbling, crispy and browned on top.

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