As I mentioned on Sunday, macaroni and cheese has got to be one of my favourite dishes of all time. Sure, I’ve graduated from the Kraft Dinner I loved as a kid (and, um, university student), and these days I’m more likely to experiment with making my own. But really, I’ll take it any way: stovetop, baked, from a package, homemade. I’ve never met a macaroni and cheese that I didn’t like, and I’ve met a lot.
The original version is known in my house as “Grandma’s Macaroni and Cheese”, because, perhaps predictably, it’s made with my grandmother’s recipe. A classic, baked mac ‘n cheese, it’s the type where you toss the cooked pasta with flour, cheese, salt and pepper in a baking dish, and pour over milk before baking. My mum, sister and I were all raised on this dish, and though we love it in its original form, over the years we’ve developed variations on it. “Grandma’s Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes” is a favourite, as was “Grandma’s Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes and Ham”, back in my meat-eating days.
I’m also partial to the kind of m&c with a béchamel base. Adding a load of cheese to a classic white sauce is simple, quick and ridiculously versatile: you can use almost any kind of cheese you can think of, and the possibilities for additions are endless. In my flat, we particularly like it with leeks or green onions, which go perfectly with strong cheddar cheese. Plus, the béchamel-type versions can be eaten in two ways: baked, if you fancy a crispy, cheesy or bread-crumbed crust, or unbaked, if you’re just into the sauce and are too lazy to wait the extra 20 minutes. (That was me last night.)
I’ve even made this recipe by Nigella Lawson, which is delicious, but too rich even for me. The sauce is thickened by evaporated milk, eggs, and such a huge amount of cheese that it should really be called “Delicious Coronary on a Plate”. If that moniker doesn’t bother you, I highly recommend it.
Back to the recipe at hand, though. I was thinking recently about how to spice up my mainstay m&c, the aforementioned béchamel version with green onions. I decided to try adding some chili (though in the end I used chili flakes, as I didn’t have any fresh stuff around) and lots of fresh coriander to liven it up a bit. Andrew and I love Asian food, and around here we subscribe to the belief that almost anything can be made better by adding chili and coriander. I wonder why it took us so long to add it to the macaroni and cheese, then?
Anyway, the resulting dish was superb, both last night in the unbaked version, and earlier today, when I baked the leftovers in a ramekin for my lunch.
- Macaroni and Cheese with Green Onions, Chili and Coriander
- serves 2
- 200g macaroni, penne, rigatoni or other pasta shape
2 Tbs. butter
5-6 green onions, chopped finely
1/2 tsp. chili flakes, OR
1 fresh red chili, de-seeded and chopped finely
2 Tbs. flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated strong chedder
1/4 cup crumbled goat’s cheese
3 Tbs. chopped coriander
salt and pepper
extra grated cheddar, for baking (optional)
- 1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F, if you plan on baking the pasta. Also for baking, butter a gratin dish or several small ramekins.
2. When the water is boiling, salt it generously and add the pasta. Cook until just al dente, drain, and set aside.
3. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add the chopped green onions and the chili (flakes), and cook gently for two minutes.
4. Add the flour and, using a whisk, quickly stir to make a paste. Cook for about 30 seconds, then pour in the milk. Heat, whisking constantly, for about 3-4 minutes, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of heavy cream.
5. Add the cheeses and stir until melted. Mix in the coriander, salt and pepper to taste, add the pasta and mix to combine.
6. If you’re baking this pasta, pour it into your prepared dish(es) and sprinkle the extra cheddar on top. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until golden on top and bubbling around the edges. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.