Classic macaroni and cheese is comfort food at its best.
Ultimate mac and cheese
Classic macaroni and cheese is comfort food at its best. It’s all about keeping it simple but using the best cheese you can get your hands on. We’ve used a mix of vintage cheddar with plenty of bite, a nutty Gruyère and a generous whack of parmesan. Smoky speck or bacon adds depth of flavour and complexity. A simple salad dressed with a piquant vinaigrette is an ideal side.
Prep time 20 mins, cook 35 mins
Serves 4 (pictured p109)
400 gm dried macaroni
70 ml olive oil
100 gm rindless bacon or speck, cut into lardons 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
120 ml dry white wine
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp thyme, plus extra to serve
600 ml pouring cream
200 gm vintage cheddar, coarsely grated
200 gm Gruyère, coarsely grated
100 gm crème fraîche
100 gm parmesan, finely grated
1 tsp smoked paprika
80 gm coarse fresh sourdough breadcrumbs Finely grated rind of ½ lemon, plus extra to serve
1 Preheat oven to 180C. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of well-salted boiling water until not quite al dente (6-7 minutes). Drain, reserving 2 tbsp cooking water, and return both to pan.
2 Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat, add bacon or speck and fry until crisp and fat renders (2-3 minutes). Add garlic, stir until fragrant, then deglaze pan with wine and simmer until reduced by half (2-3 minutes). Stir in mustard and thyme, then add mixture to pasta and stir to combine. Add cream, cheddar, Gruyère, crème fraîche, paprika and half the parmesan, season, mix well, then transfer to four individual 450ml baking dishes (or a large baking dish).
3 Mix breadcrumbs, rind and remaining oil and parmesan in a bowl and season. Scatter crumbs over pasta and bake until filling is bubbling and the top is golden brown (15-20 minutes). Scatter with extra thyme and lemon rind, and serve hot. Wine suggestion Amontillado or vin jaune.
Ham and provolone mac and cheese with fried egg
If there were such a thing as breakfast pasta, this would be it. That said, we could eat this at any time of day. We’ve used mafalda, a ribbon-like pasta with curly edges, but fettuccine also works nicely.
Prep time 20 mins, cook 30 mins
Serves 4 (pictured p108)
400 gm dried mafalda
300 ml pouring cream
300 gm mascarpone
150 ml milk
200 gm provolone piccante, coarsely grated,
plus extra for scattering
100 gm parmesan, finely grated, plus extra
4 thick slices leg ham off the bone, torn
Olive oil, for frying
200 gm firm ricotta
Coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley and thyme, to serve
1 Preheat oven to 180C. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until not quite al dente (7-8 minutes). Drain and return to pan with 2 tbsp pasta cooking water. Stir in cream, mascarpone and milk to combine, then stir in provolone, parmesan and ham, and season generously to taste. Divide among four 500ml shallow ramekins or baking dishes, scatter with extra provolone and parmesan, and bake until bubbling and golden brown (20-25 minutes).
2 Meanwhile, heat a splash of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry one egg to your liking (2-3 minutes for soft yolks). Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining eggs.
3 To serve, top each dish with a spoonful of ricotta and a fried egg, and scatter with herbs. Wine suggestion Cloudy prosecco col fondo.
Mushroom and Fontina rigatoni
Make the most of winter mushrooms and use a mix of the best in the market. We’ve ramped up the flavour of this rigatoni dish by adding dried mushrooms to the mix, too. If you can’t find Fontina, Taleggio or another washed-rind cheese would work well in its place.
Prep time 15 mins, cook 40 mins
500 gm mixed mushrooms, such as Swiss brown, flat and pine
2 tbsp olive oil
Finely grated rind of ½ lemon
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
400 gm dried rigatoni (we used wholemeal) 185 ml ( 3/ cup) pouring cream
20 gm mixed dried mushrooms, softened in 60ml boiling water for 20 minutes
150 gm Fontina, diced
50 gm parmesan, finely grated, plus extra for scattering
1½ tbsp coarsely chopped sage, plus 1 tbsp extra leaves
60 gm chilled butter, coarsely chopped
1 Preheat oven to 200C. Halve or quarter larger mushrooms and keep smaller ones whole. Toss in a roasting pan with olive oil, lemon rind and half the garlic and roast until browned on the edges (6-8 minutes).
2 Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until not quite al dente (10-12 minutes). Drain and return to pan.
3 Bring cream, dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid, and remaining garlic to a simmer in a saucepan, add to pasta along with Fontina and parmesan, season to taste and mix well.
Fold in roasted mushrooms and chopped sage, spread in a 2-litre baking dish, scatter with extra parmesan and bake until bubbling and golden brown (20-25 minutes).
4 Cook butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until light nut brown (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat, add extra sage leaves and season to taste. Serve pasta hot drizzled with sage butter. Wine suggestion Well-cellared pinot noir.