October 28, 2014

I Dream of Cheese

This is one of my most treasured recipes.

And although this is inspired by many, many, many recipes and restaurant visits, the end product is an evolution of serious cheese experimentation and devotion to the love of all things cheese and carbohydrate.

 I've rarely met a macaroni and cheese that I didn't like, but I'm just sayin' this recipe is damn delicious and it is my favorite, thus far.

So, the story of this love affair:

I literally made macaroni and cheese once a week, if not more, 
for an entire year, 
if not more, 
in the quest to find and/or create the 

Yes, I was no-joke obsessed with trying every macaroni and cheese at every restaurant we stopped in, from Maine to St. Maarten, feverishly asking questions and taking notes, 
and making every recipe from Bobby Flay's 'Macaroni and Cheese Throwdown' to almost every recipe in Alice Water's Chez Panisse Pasta cookbook...not to mention every magazine, cookbook, website, article, blog, conversation I could devour.
If it had the word 'macaroni,' 'pasta,' 'cheese' or the like, I was there, sleeves rolled up, fork in hand.

In retrospect it was both sad and ridiculous, and a little bit pathetic, but who is judging?!

So, what was I looking for!?
The perfect mixture and blend of cheeses, 
The correctly shaped pasta...
Additions like vegetables and meats?! 
Herbs and/or spices!? 
Crunchy toppings versus 100% creamy!?...
Why is this creamy? 
Why is this gritty?! 
What the hell happened here?!

I could go on forever about this year of cheese, 
but I'll spare you the inevitable details, 
and just let you know that all of the pounds I gained during this year, was worth every savory, cheesy, delicious taste.

This is where I landed.


Makes enough for a small army. 

1 box of campanelle pasta (or small shells if not available)
3 tablespoons of salt for pasta cooking water

1 stick of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of flour
3 tablespoons of snipped fresh thyme + extra snipped for topping
1 tsp of freshly ground pepper
6 cups of whole milk

1/2 bag of petite baby sweet peas (Bird's Eye brand)

1 pound of Cooper brand American cheese, shredded
3 cups of Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
3 cups of Mild Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup of Parmesan/Romano cheese, grated

1 tablespoon of truffle oil

Panko bread crumbs for topping
ham, cut into slivers or cubes

1. Boil a large pot of water, add dried pasta, and cook per package directions, adding salt to the water at the same time as the pasta. Put frozen peas into an empty colander. Pour the cooked pasta over the frozen peas and stir to drain and thaw out the peas.
2. Meanwhile, make a roux by melting butter, stir in flour until incorporated and foamy, stir in fresh thyme and pepper.
3. Slowly add milk and stir continuously until hot, but do not allow to boil.
4. Add cheese, half cup at a time, gently stirring all the while to make sure it is melting and not clumping. If the sauce gets too thick, stop adding cheese. You don't want it to be too thick, as it will thicken as it stands.
5. Once all of the cheese is added and the sauce is creamy, taste and adjust seasoning.
6. Put the cooked pasta/peas in a baking/serving dish and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, stir to mix well.
7. Serve hot from here with a drizzle of truffle oil, or, top with enough Panko bread crumbs to coat, a little extra thyme and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese; bake until golden brown, then drizzle with truffle oil.
8. Either way, serve hot.

Let me know what you think!?

One thing I have learned, is that you truly can't go wrong pouring cheese over noodles...


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