Cooking can be a pretty mathematical process sometimes. For the mathletes among us, that’s probably reassuring. Knowing that spaghetti + sauce = dinner is likely just as comforting as knowing that 2 + 2 = 4. Simple cooking truths, just like simple math, are the building blocks of kitchen know-how, and though the real fun comes when you build on those basics and throw in a few curveballs (perhaps akin to solving for x or dabbling with differential equations?), those simple basics are always there, always reliable and always true.
Last week the North Carolina weather finally decided to cool down a bit, and that wonderful fall chill in the air prompted me to revisit one of life’s premier food equations: pasta + cheese = comfort. It seems that it doesn’t matter where in the country you grew up or how fancy dancy your kitchen and/or cooking skills are; everyone loves a good batch of mac and cheese. The great news is, once you venture outside of the box and try your hand at a homemade version, there’s no end to how far that mac and cheese love can take you. Really, there are about a million amazing recipes out there. Stove top, baked, gruyere, cheddar. It’s just a matter of deciding what spin on pasta-and-cheese goodness you’re in the mood for.
Although Jared and I love the Real Simple version of baked macaroni and cheese with cauliflower that I’ve blogged about before, this white cheddar version with broccoli, adapted from The Craving Chronicles, is another delicious, comforting, veggie-filled choice. The sharp white cheddar gives the pasta a nice zing, and the bit of pepper jack livens everything up with a bit of spice. I opted to roast fresh broccoli rather than steam the frozen variety before mixing it in with the rest of the ingredients (based on another trusted cooking equation: vegetables + roasting = amazing), but even with that extra step, the whole meal can be thrown together in about 25 minutes. Fast, yummy and happy, happy comfort food. My tummy is smiling just thinking about it.
White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese with Roasted Broccoli
Adapted from The Craving Chronicles
Serves 2 as main course, 4 as side dish
• one large head of broccoli, cut into small florets
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• kosher salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 pound whole-wheat bow-tie pasta (I suppose this technically means it’s not macaroni and cheese, but bow-ties are just so much more fun.)
• 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 1/3 cups milk
• 4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
• 2 ounces pepper jack cheese, grated
Spread broccoli florets on a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Toss so olive oil is spread evenly throughout broccoli, then sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Roast in a 425-degree oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until broccoli is tender but not mushy. Set aside.
While broccoli is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook according to package directions. Drain.
In the meantime, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, and whisk to form a roux. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes to eliminate raw flour taste, then slowly pour in milk and whisk briskly to remove lumps. Continue cooking over medium heat, whisking constantly, until milk mixture thickens. Remove from heat, and whisk in shredded cheese. Add salt to taste.
Add drained pasta back to pot, pour cheese sauce over pasta, and add broccoli. Stir to combine.
What comfort foods are you cooking up now that the fall weather is here? Do you have a great homemade macaroni and cheese recipe to share? I’d love to hear it!