Sunday, February 19, 2012

Creamy Stovetop Mac & Cheese - Italian Style

When I was a kid, I used to love going to my friends' houses for dinner. Since I was a vegetarian, their moms never knew what to feed me, and inevitably ended up making the blue box of macaroni and cheese. This was particularly exciting for me because my mom NEVER made it. She always made mac and cheese from scratch, and me being a bratty kid, of course wanted it from the box. Obviously I now see the error of my ways, and I am no longer a fan of the blue box, but Velveeta Shells and Cheese remains as my biggest guilty pleasure. Which is why I've never been tempted to try a stove top version of macaroni and cheese. If I had an emergency craving, I would just turn to the box. But this homemade version comes together in just about the same amount of time, and while it's certainly not healthy, at least it's not full of additives, chemicals, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.

And can one ever have too many macaroni and cheese recipes? I think not. There are just so many varieties, you see. So even if you have a really really good classic variation, it's always nice to have other options as well. You know, just in case you have a specific cheese craving. This particular dinner was born out of necessity. I am usually pretty good about sticking to my menu plan, but one night for some reason or another my planned dinner fell through. So as I surveyed the pantry and fridge, I noticed that I had everything I needed for macaroni and cheese, but we were all hungry, and didn't want to wait long to eat.

Enter stove-top mac and cheese. It's embarrassingly quick and easy, and as I'm about to tell you, this recipe is open to so many variations. I got this recipe from Annie, who used called for a combination of Gouda and Parmesan, and also called for Greek yogurt. She got the recipe from Shanon, who used Emmenthal and creme fraiche. And I used Fontina, Parmesan, and Ricotta. I'd imagine you could make more variations as well: Gruyere, cheddar,Swiss, Monterey Jack, maybe even Brie... the possibilities really are endless.

More Mac & Cheese Love
 Classic Macaroni and Cheese

Fonitina, Mushroom, and Prosciutto Shells and Cheese

Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese
Shrimp and Feta Macaroni and Cheese

Fontina Shells and Cheese

Italian-Style Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese 
significantly adapted from Macaroni and Cheese, via Annie's Eats and The Curvy Carrot 
  • 12 oz. dried pasta shapes (smaller shapes work best)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs minced shallot
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp dried mustard
  • 8 oz shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese
  • 2 oz shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup milk, half-and-half, or cream
  • 4 oz. Ricotta cheese (full-fat or part-skim are both fine)
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta to al dente, according to the directions on the package.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water (I used to always forget to save the water, so now I put a measuring cup in the strainer while the pasta is cooking, so I don't forget).

Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the garlic, shallot, mustard, and nutmeg.  Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring well between each addition.  Stir in the ricotta, butter, and milk, and stir until all the cheese has melted and the sauce is creamy and smooth, adding the reserved pasta water if needed.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.


Claire said...

This recipe is awesome. It's so easy, and like you mentioned, the variations are truly endless. I did Pecorino Romano with Irish Cheddar. :) Such a delicious recipe!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar said...

I love how simple this seems. A classic recipe! Yum!

Laura said...

Yum, this sounds delicious and different. Can never have too many mac and cheese recipes!

Joanne said...

this mac and cheese must be amazing (and so versatile!) if it's made the rounds so many times. I love your Italian version!

Uni Korn said...

When I was little we only had the boxed stuff. I loved it and didn't know food could be made from scratch. Now I make everything from scratch, well most things. Some times I crave the artificially goodness but I always regret it after.... It never tastes like I remembered. From scratch is so versatile. I consider it healthy if made from scratch.

Jessica said...

I love all of the variations of this recipe! Yours sounds fabulous!

Anonymous said...

this looks amazing, now im craving mac n cheese!

Tina | My Life as a Mrs said...

I need this in my life! ;)

Lisa said...

Made this tonight... I followed the directions, usually quality Fontina and mozzarella, shredding it myself.

The texture was just all clumpy cheese - it never turned into a smooth sauce at all.

Suggestions? Waste of good ingredients. =(

Josie said...

Hi Lisa, I'm sorry it didn't work out for you! It sounds like maybe you should have stirred it more and/or added more milk to better incorporate the cheese into the pasta. Or maybe the pasta had cooled down too much and wasn't warm enough to melt the cheese?

Anonymous said...

stupid question what do you do with the cup of pasta water?

Josie said...

Anonymous, sorry I didn't include that in the directions - you add it if the sauce seems a little thick.. it will thin it out as needed. thanks for catching the mistake!

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