Baked mac and cheese

Bit of a chill in the air…Quick run for the comfort food!! And the best kind after chocolate has to involve pasta and cheese for me. This is such an easy dish to prepare and tastes delicious with a fresh tomato salad. The proportions below make more than enough for 3 greedy adults and one small child.

Ingredients

  • 350g macaroni (dry pasta weight)
  • Enough water to boil pasta
  • 1 pint semi skimmed milk
  • 1 small onion – chopped finely
  • 1 large dry bay leaf
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbs plain flour
  • 1/2tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Colman’s mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 250g mature cheese
  • oil / butter to grease baking dish

Cooking:

  • Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees centigrade (or 180 degrees if fan oven, gas mark 5)
  • Boil pasta to al dente as per packet instructions and then drain
  • In a small pan, bring milk to the boil. Then take off heat and throw in the onion, garlic and bay leaf. Leave for at least half an hour to infuse the milk. Strain out so that you only have the milk for the sauce. Discard the onion, garlic and bay leaf.
  • In a sauce pan, melt the butter. Take off the heat and stir in the flour. Mix well so there are no lumps. For some reason, wooden spoons are best for this.
  • Put the butter/flour back on a low heat and cook for 20 seconds, stirring to stop it sticking to the pan.
  • Take off the heat and slowly add the milk, stirring all the time to avoid any lumps forming.
  • Put the butter/flour/milk back on the heat and cook until it thickens, stirring to stop it sticking to the pan.
  • Once it thickens, take it off the heat. Grate in the nutmeg, add the mustard and stir. Season to taste
  • Add 3/4 of the  cheese and stir. The sauce should be quite thick now. DO NOT put back on the heat as the cheese will separate in a horrid nasty way
  • Grease a large baking dish with butter or olive oil. Put in the pasta then cover well with the sauce. Mix it all up. Then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top
  • Cook on the middle shelf of your oven until the top is browned and sauce mix is bubbling.
  • Serve with garlic bread, a fresh salad with lots of tomatoes and a nice white wine.

P.S. Sorry about lack of picture. I managed to delete the one I had taken after we gobbled up the food 😦

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Pasta with spicy tomato sauce

The first thing I learnt to cook for my family all by my ownsome was pasta with spicy tomato sauce. I made the recipe up and would pour it over spaghetti then serve with huge dollops of butter to give extra creaminess. These days I use cheese instead of butter but the rest is the same.

I know many Indians who each have a recipe for pasta sauce. My dad makes the most divine spicy pesto sauce. Not only is it easy but in areas where Indian vegetables are hard to come by or is cash is tight, it enables you to have a spicy meal relatively quickly and cheaply. I lived on the stuff at university and to this day enjoy it at least once a week.

The following sauce works well with penne rigate, spaghetti, tagliatelle, rigatoni (today’s option!), casarecce, conchiglie. For a short description of these look on the National Pasta Association site

The following will feed 2 very greedy people, or 4 sensible eaters.

Ingredients

  • 400 g pasta
  • 3 tbs groundnut oil
  • 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 medium brown onion – diced very finely
  • 3 cloves garlic – crushed or sliced very thinly. If you like garlic like I do, add 1 more clove
  • 5 peppercorns – optional. You may leave this out and give your guests the option of having ground pepper added to their servings as per taste
  • 1 fresh green chili – sliced into 1/2 cm pieces
  • 3 very ripe tomatoes – I use vine but I guess you could use pomodoro. Alternatively, half a can of chopped tomatoes (use a good brand like Napolina)
  • 4 tbs double concentrate tomato puree (again use a good brand)
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1 tsp cumin coriander powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 2 tbs finely chopped coriander leaves and stems. NOTE do not discard the stems that hold the leaves together, they are often more full of flavour than the leaves. However, do discard the stem part that was in the ground.

Preparation:

  • Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. When you drain the pasta, save the water as it’s used in the sauce
  • If you can be bothered (which means, I never do but know I should) then peel skin off tomatoes. First boil some water. Then drop the tomatoes. The water should cover the tomatoes. You will see the skin split. After 5 minutes, fish out the tomatoes carefully as the water will be hot and and peel skin off. Chop into fine dice. I usually discard the woody centre of the tomato.

Cooking:

  • Heat the oil in a very large pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and wait for them to start sizzling and going brown
  • Add the cinnamon and onions. Cook until the onions start to caramelise. This can take up to 10 minutes. Don’t rush.
  • Add the garlic, chilies and peppercorns. Cook for 2 minutes
  • Add the diced tomatoes and spices. Cook until it reduces down as the picture above shows
  • Add the tomato puree and then use water that the pasta was cooked in to make the sauce more liquid. I usually put in about 3 ladles full
  • Cook sauce for about 5 minutes, then pour over the pasta and continue cooking for another few minutes so that it saturates into the pasta
  • Add the finely chopped coriander and serve with grated cheddar cheese and garlic bread

Variations

  • I like to add red or yellow peppers to increase my 5-a-day intake. Roast the peppers until the skin is black. Cool and peel off the skin. I  recently saw a tip from James Martin where you put the peppers into a sandwich bag and close up. The steam from the hot peppers makes it easy to peel the skin off. Chop the skinned peppers finely and add at the same time as the diced tomatoes.
  • Another variation is to cook the sauce with red onions instead of brown, add green peppers and cook with quorn. Then serve with spaghetti or tagliatelle as an alternative to spag bol.