The term comfort food seems to cover all manner of sins, and if someone asked me to name a comfort food – I’d probably instinctively reach for something I grew up eating, like aloo posto – a dish sadly inaccessible to us in Singapore due to the lack of that magical ingredient posto (poppy seeds). But when we were in the mood for comfort food on a lazy, wet day during this circuit-breaker season, we settled on cooking some Mac n’ Cheese. Carbs and fat, pasta and cheese, salty and creamy – enough said!

I had read a nice NY Times Cooking piece by Alison Roman – ‘How to make Mac and Cheese‘ and adapted it. The key modifications were – reducing the portion size for the three of us; dialling back the cheese a bit (yes, I know – that’s the killer app in a Mac and Cheese but it was plenty cheesy still); and adding some spice and heat with paprika and curry powder. It worked very well, and the combination of a sharp and salty cheese Cheddar with a milder, creamier one, and the addition of a breadcrumb and parmesan topping for crunch, elevate the dish and give a simple comfort food dish, a slightly ‘posh’ vibe! 🙂 Enjoy…..

Ingredients

  • 225g macaroni
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp garlic crushed
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (or use a little less red chilli powder)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 125-140g hard & sharp cheese like cheddar
  • 125-140g soft & creamy cheese like gouda
  • Ground black pepper
  • Salt

For the topping

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan or grada padano
  • salt & ground pepper

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of salter boiling water till it al dente (important to cook it a little less than usual pasta as it will cook further in the oven). Once done, drain and set aside. Reserve a little bit of the paste water as it is good to use to loosen up the pasta later.

Method

In a medium pot, heat the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, until the flour is foamy and starting to turn light brown. Don’t overdo the flour. Slowly whisk in the milk to avoid clumps from forming. Add the garlic paste, paprika and season with salt & pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer, continuing to whisk all the time.

Add the grated cheese and whisk to blend until the cheese is completely melted. The sauce may look quite thick at this point but will get thinner as the cheese melts. Add salt & pepper as needed and now add the cooked pasta. Stir to well to make sure the pasta is coated with the cheese sauce.

Heat the oven to 425℉/ 210℃.

To make the topping, combine breadcrumbs, melted butter and parmesan/padano cheese. Season with salt and pepper and mix well to ensure the breadcrumbs are evenly coated.

Transfer the macaroni and cheese into a baking dish and scatter the breadcrumbs evenly on top. Place on the baking tray and bake till the macaroni and cheese is bubbling and breadcrumbs are golden brown. Should take 20-30 mins.

Let it cool slightly before serving. This tastes great on its own, but we amped it up with some chilli oil on top. Lots of flavour variations are possible with this dish, and we look forward to trying those soon!

Aniruddha

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