Flour and Flowers | A Kitchen and Garden Blog

Fake It ’til It’s Tasty Stove-top Mac & Cheese

I invented this recipe because I wanted mac & cheese for dinner but I didn’t want to bother with a box.  I also decided it was a chance to use up some of the cheese remnants in my fridge before they go bad.  (I do eat ricotta with a spoon, but generally not an entire container of it.  Fresh Parmesan, on the other hand, will never be allowed to go bad.)  My general complaint with boxed mac & cheese, even the quality kind like Annie’s, is that the powdered cheese mix that comes with it doesn’t make enough cheese.  I frequently add frozen veggies to my macaroni, and when you double the volume, the cheese pack just isn’t going to cut it.  So I usually find myself subsidizing the cheese sauce anyway, and it’s always a challenge to find interesting things in the fridge to do it with.

This time, I decided not to bother with the box at all.  I had elbows (weird), and I had all sorts of interesting things left over from lasagna and other cheese-related cooking projects, so I figured I had enough to work with.  I also decided that since I happen to have black truffle oil left over from the super secret Birthday Mac & Cheese, I should probably go ahead and use some of it.  So it doesn’t feel neglected.  Yeah.

So I gathered all the different cheeses I had, and I pulled out some of the fresh sage I bought to put on roasted acorn squash, which I ended up not using in favor of maple syrup and ginger, but which somehow miraculously still seems to be perfectly good.  And I have two windowsill basil plants that we were given as a wedding present (Amazingly cool wedding present, by the way – thanks, Natasha!) so I cut a few leaves of basil to add in. And then I went through my spice cabinet to see if there was anything else that seemed like a good idea.  In retrospect, I probably should have added cayenne – Calin loves it.

I’ve actually edited my recipe directions based on a few mistakes I made while developing this sauce. When I did it, I melted the butter and then threw in the Parmesan because it looked so tasty. And then I had a moment and realized that the herbs would have had a much better flavor if I’d thrown them in with the butter on their own for a bit. So I threw them in with the butter and Parmesan, but it didn’t work quite as well. You should do it the way I wrote it, not the way I did it.  But regardless, it all turned out deliciously.  There is definitely a strong ricotta flavor, so if you’re interested in thickness with slightly less cheese I’d recommend cutting back on the ricotta and adding some flour like you would for a typical white sauce.  I personally don’t think you can ever have too much cheese, so I just ran with it.

(Sorry, this one came out a bit blurry.)

Fake It ’til It’s Tasty Stove-top Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 c. elbow macaroni
  • splash of black truffle oil
  • dash of salt
  • 2 T. butter
  • 3 large basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 large sage leaves, chopped
  • several dashes of thyme
  • many dashes of garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • substantial splash of milk
  • several large spoonfuls of ricotta
  • a few handfuls of fresh grated Parmesan
  • grated Jarlsberg, to top
Directions
  1. Start your water for boiling the pasta; add a dash of salt and a splash of black truffle oil (if you happen to have it around the house from some other recipe a few weeks ago).
  2. Add pasta when boiling, and cook as directed.  Strain pasta.
  3. In the still-hot pot, over low heat, melt the butter.
  4. Add the basil, sage and thyme and saute for a minute or two.
  5. Add the garlic powder, salt and pepper, and stir in thoroughly.
  6.  Add a splash of milk and mix well; if too thick, add another splash.
  7. Add several large spoonfuls of ricotta and several handfuls of grated Parmesan; stir.
  8. Pour the strained pasta back into the pot with the sauce and mix well.
  9. Divide into bowls and top with grated Jarlsberg.
  10. Serve immediately.
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