How often do you get an obsessive craving for something delectable but don’t have the stuff to make it? Ashamed to say, while sipping my morning cafe latte the other day, I found myself in front of my pantry staring at a box of synthetic meh and cheese. Fragments of a foodie dream must have brought me there. The long-gone expiration date begged for the trash and I complied. But now I wanted mac and cheese all the more. How did that get there anyway?
As the daughter of a WWII veteran who helped her dad build an underground fallout shelter, part of my gene pool exalts the merits of being prepared for an apocalypse. No, I’m not a “prepper”, but I do like to cover my bases. Call me neurotic, but when I am down to the last bit of anything, it goes on “The List” so I never run out.
This is where a well stocked refrigerator and pantry come in handy. Most perishable items can be frozen, ready for your calling. Pleased with the benefits of my neuroses, I gathered the ingredients for my Italianized and adult-friendly version of macaroni and cheese. I rolled up my sleeves all the while salivating and here are the results. Hope you like this variation. Mac and cheese is a universal dish with many countries adding their own native ingredients so have fun and play around with your favorite tastes. This is the joy of cooking.
3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3 cups of half and half (or mixture of milk and light cream)
one cup of each: shredded Asiago, Fontina and Monterey Jack
Melt the butter in a saucepan, whisk in the flour and cook for two minutes on low/medium heat. Slowly add the milk/cream and stir until smooth and hot. Add the garlic powder and slowly add the cheeses while stirring all the time and when melted, take off the heat. Cover and set aside.
3/4 cup diced pancetta
1 pkg. prosciutto, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups frozen petite peas
1/2 cup Italian panko breadcrumbs
1 lb. box fusilli pasta cooked al dente
Saute the diced pancetta in 2 tbs. olive oil until golden and then add the minced garlic. Saute another two minutes and then scoop it all out with a slotted spoon into a large mixing bowl and set aside. In the same saucepan, saute the chopped prosciutto until golden and crispy, all the while separating the bits as much as possible. Take off the heat and set aside. Cook the pasta al dente, and place drained pasta in the large bowl with the pancetta and toss. Add the frozen peas and stir in the melted cheese sauce until all is incorporated.
Place the mac and cheese into an oblong glass or earthenware baking dish that has been pre-smeared with butter. Top with the panko crumbs and prosciutto bits. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes until the top starts to bubble on the edges and crumbs start to turn golden in color. Serves 4-6 happily.