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Wishing Mac & Cheese could be an “anytime” food

May 16, 2010

After tasting the mac & cheese I made for dinner this evening, Suzy sighed and declared, “I wish mac & cheese was an anytime food, instead of a sometimes food…”  Beyond starting with a bechamel base, I don’t use a set recipe for mac & cheese, so it comes out a bit differently every time I make it.  Tonight, I used a decadently creamy blend of Wisconsin cheddar and wild garlic flavored Havarti.

A generous splash of Marsala added a tantalizing complexity and hint of sweetness.  As near as I can remember, the recipe went something like this:

Suzy’s Sometimes Mac & Cheese

10 oz. pipette pasta

3 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp flour

10 oz. 2% milk

1/4 c. Marsala wine

1 c. grated wild garlic Havarti cheese

1 c. grated Wisconsin cheddar cheese

salt to taste

1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

chopped herbs or dried herb blend

Boil the pasta until just shy of al dente, drain, and set aside.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook for several minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk.  Continue to whisk gently until the sauce thickens.  Stir in the Marsala.  Add the grated cheese 1/2 c. at a time, whisking well and allowing each addition to melt completely into the sauce before adding more.  Salt to taste.  Add cooked pasta to saucepan and stir until pasta is well coated with cheese sauce.  Pour the mixture into a baking dish.  In a small bowl, mix together panko bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and herbs or dried herb blend.  (I like to use the Chicago Spice House’s Ukrainian Village Blend.  It doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but it tastes amazing on mac & cheese, fish, and roasted vegetables.  Trust me.)  Pour the topping evenly over the top of the cheese mixture.  Bake at 375 F for 10 minutes, and then place under the broiler until the topping is golden brown.

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