Cooking Cove: Mac and Cheese – A Great American Favorite

By Barbara Beltrami

My mom never made mac and cheese so when I was a kid it was Franco-American straight out of the box. In my youth, I made macaroni and cheese for my children from the Kraft packet which included the elbow macaroni and a small packet of powdered American shredded cheese to which, if I remember correctly, I added milk and butter.

Now that the kids are all grown up and I need the calories and cholesterol of macaroni and cheese like a hole in my head, I suddenly woke up to real mac and cheese (during Covid incarceration, of cours). Lobster mac and cheese did it. And then the other day my friend suggested a mac and cheese column. So there you go and to hell with the calories and cholesterol!

Classic Macaroni and Cheese

YIELD: Makes 4-6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound curly macaroni

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

4 cups of milk

Freshly ground pepper to taste

3/4 pound freshly grated sharp white cheddar cheese

3/4 pound freshly grated fontina cheese

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until just al dente. Drain, toss with oil and set aside. Preheat oven to 425 F. In medium saucepan, heat butter over medium heat; whisk in flour, and continuing to whisk constantly, cook until flour begins to foam and brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the milk, then season with salt and pepper and still whisking, bring to the boil. Add grated cheese, whisk until completely melted, add cayenne pepper and cooked pasta and mix well. Transfer mixture to a 9×13-inch baking dish, place on a baking sheet to catch any drippings, and bake until the top begins to crisp and the sides are bubbling, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve warm with a green salad.

Mac and cheese with four cheeses

YIELD: Makes 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound curly macaroni

6 oz Robiola, rind removed, cheese diced

4 ounces goat cheese, diced

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup mascarpone

2/3 cup grated pecorino

Freshly ground white pepper to taste

Barely 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a two-quart casserole dish. Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain and immediately transfer to a large bowl and toss with the Robiola and goat cheese until melted. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, mascarpone and pecorino; stir into macaroni mixture, add pepper and nutmeg, stir. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole; cook until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately with a tomato and onion salad.

Macaroni cheese with lobster

YIELD: Makes 6-8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup mashed cottage cheese

2 cups of milk

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups (packed) shredded extra-sharp white cheddar

1/2 pound curly macaroni, cooked for half the time indicated on the package and drained

2 pound cooked lobster meat, cut into bite-size pieces

2 3 tablespoons bottled clam juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 F; place the rack in the upper third of the oven. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with a tablespoon of butter. In an electric blender or food processor, puree the cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cheddar cheese and pasta, then pour into a baking dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, stir in lobster meat and clam juice, sprinkle with remaining butter and return to oven, uncovered. Bake another 30 minutes until golden and bubbly; remove from the oven, let rest for 10 minutes, then serve hot with a chilled, chilled white wine and a salad of arugula and endives.