Comfort Food nr 1: mac ‘n cheese

All we need right now is comfort food that has been made with love: mac ‘n cheese! This recipe has been written and photographed by Tal and is featured this month in the Dutch culinary magazine Elle Eten. We share it on our blog today because in these cold and dark days we can’t think of any food that is more comforting.

mac n cheese 4-9368

Vegetarian, Serves 4
Action Time: 30 minutes + 15-20 minutes baking

9 oz/250 g macaroni grande
2 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, thinly sliced
2-3 garlic cloves
9 oz/250 g assorted mushrooms, sliced into bite-size pieces
3.5 oz/ 100 g shredded sharp cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
2.5 oz/75 g grated Parmesan cheese
2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
4 tbsp panko
For the béchamel:
1 oz/30 g butter
1 oz/30 g flour
2 1/8 cups/ 500 ml whole milk or 2% milk
2 bay leaves

1. Start with the béchamel. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until the mixture turns golden, 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the milk whisking constantly. At first the mixture will be very thick but it will get thinner as you slowly add the rest of the milk. Add the bay leaves, some salt, and freshly ground pepper and bring the sauce to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth thick béchamel, stir every now and then. Remove the pan from the heat, remove the bay leaves and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 410 F/210°C. In a large sauce pan with salted boiling water, cook the macaroni until nearly al dente. Drain well. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the leek and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

3. Reheat the béchamel over low heat and stir in the cheeses. Whisk until the cheese is melted. Add a little milk if the sauce is too thick (you do not want it to be too thick because the pasta will absorb some of the liquid in the oven). In a large bowl or pan, mix the macaroni with the mushroom mixture and cheese sauce. Transfer to a large baking dish and sprinkle with the panko. Bake the mac ‘n cheese for 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top.

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You can make the béchamel ahead of time and store it in the fridge. It will get thicker from cooling, so add an extra splash of milk when reheating.

Add a pinch of cayenne to the béchamel or sprinkle some truffle oil over the dish just before serving.

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