People like me, who have never been to the United States but who do spend a lot of time on the internet, usually have this weird image of the US that’s entirely based on completely random and unconnected stereotypes. There’s those ridiculous red cups, of course, that they’ve now started to import to Europe, God knows why. There’s massive cars and incredibly irresponsible motorbiking (no helmets – seriously?). And there’s the food: always the same food you see on so many blogs and websites that we simply don’t seem to have around here. There’s pumpkin spiced flavoured anything (although I still haven’t found out what pumpkin spice is), oreo-flavoured everything, but apparently also everything-flavoured oreos. Then there’s the million food blogs that always write about pulled pork and brisket, which actually look really really nice.
All of that aside though, we need to talk about one dish that keeps rearing its ugly head. The stuff of nightmares: mac and cheese. It’s difficult to really understand what this mac and cheese is if, like me, you’ve never eaten it, but what I’ve understood is that it comes in quite a lot of variations, the most ubiquitous of which seems to be the plain and simple Kraft instant version. This looks mostly like a mixture of a sort of yellow-orange powder, milk, and bits of rubber. I can’t really tell, obviously, but it looks pretty revolting and anything made by Kraft is generally pretty disgusting.
However, I may have to admit there’s something quite comforting in shoving a mixture of salty, creamy, cheesy and savoury in your gob by the spoonful. I may have to acknowledge that. So if we ignore the Kraft business for a minute, and focus on the other version, the home-made one, than we might just be able to make this thing work. All we’ll need to do is add some adult flavours and make this into something that a real person could eat. So for starters, let’s add some vegetables. And then, for added flavour, some different types of cheese.
Is this blasphemy? Is this an insult to the pasta-tradition? Am I getting in so much trouble with so many people for even thinking about making this? Probably. But it’s kinda nice, honestly.
So after you’ve binned your Kraft packages, get the following for two people:
- 250 gr of pasta – in the picture you’ll see the tiny little elbows, but next time I’m definitely going for something more substantial like penne
- half a litre of milk
- 50 gr butter
- 50 gr flour
- a few of your leftover crusts of cheese, like Gouda or cheddar – something nice and savoury
- about 75 gr of gorgonzola
- you pick: either a good couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, or 3 legs of celery
- black pepper
So boil water for your pasta. Whilst you wait for it to boil, make a béchamel. Melt your butter in a saucepan, then add the flour. Stir until it’s a smoothish paste, then add the milk, not all in one go, but pouring slowly and stirring and you go. Keep stirring and wait for it to thicken.
Hopefully you’ve grated your cheese or cut it up into fine bits. Add those to the bechamel and keep stirring so that they melt. Add some black pepper. Taste to see if it’s cheesy enough and add some more if not.
Chop your celery into slices, or if you’re using tomatoes, quarter them. Keep them aside for now.
Boil your pasta according to the instructions on the pack. Drain, then add the whole lot to the cheese sauce. Add whichever vegetable you’re using, mix well, serve up and top with a bit of grated cheese.