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« Crispy Bacon Pancakes – My New Craving | Main | At the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in San Diego »

In Love with Old School Mac and Cheese

By Katie Barreira

Every so often I get this crazy craving for one of my childhood favorites, macaroni and cheese. But not just any cheesy pasta will do. It must be that liquid-smooth and unnaturally tangy sauce, which can only come from dehydrated cheese. This admission has induced chest-clutching gasps of horror from my colleagues.

I, too, was indignant, refusing to believe that boxed macaroni and cheese, unlike so many of its processed pals, couldn’t be recreated, even improved, with wholesome ingredients and some culinary acumen. But as I tinkered with recipes and sampled grown-up versions of the stuff (from seemingly every chef in the city), I began to have my doubts.

The biggest beef I have with both home- and restaurant-style mac and cheese is the consistency. If not grainy, then overly thick and goopy, it’s just not that easy to get a pleasantly thin, silky sauce with “real” cheese. Not to mention all the add-ins; when an old-school mac and cheese hankering hits, breadcrumbs made from truffle bread do not ring my bell. And hold the nutmeg, please!

So when I spotted a relatively natural bag of white Cheddar cheese powder at Atlantic Spice Company (an excellent resource for herbs and spices, also available online), I decided it was time for a compromise. Instead of indulging in the packaged variety, or opting for the powdered yellow Cheddar, (which has more additives than white), I made a pot of kid-in-me-friendly mac and cheese that satisfied my taste for wellbeing and nostalgia.

I used gemelli pasta because I like the way these toothsome swirls catch the sauce, but you can use any small pasta like, elbows, orrechetti, or shells.

To get the recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.

Saucy Mac and Cheese
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound gemelli pasta or any small pasta like elbow macaroni, orrechetti, or shells
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup white Cheddar cheese powder
½ to 3/4 cup whole milk

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, lightly salted, water following package directions. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking water.
  2. Off heat; return pasta and 2 tablespoons cooking water to the pot; stir in the butter to melt.
  3. Whisk cheese powder into ½ cup milk and stir into the pot. Return to low heat and adjust consistency of the sauce with the remaining milk and/or cooking water, depending on how saucy you like it. Heat, stirring, to thicken sauce slightly and serve immediately.

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