I don't make mac and cheese or any pasta at home, nor do I order it in restaurants. Why? Because the angel on my shoulder reminding me that, "It's not as much about what you eat, it's about portion size." gets smacked into oblivion by "want". However, Friday dinners cooked with my amica in cucina, Lynn are the exception and boy-oh-boy this mac and cheese was fun, easy and delicious.
We compare notes on cooking shows we've watched, or recipes found and this one (Maccheroni al Formaggio) came from Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali's cookbook, "Lidia's Italy in America". I don't post recipes if they are not original, unless we've made significant changes in ingredients, preparation or sometimes both. With the exception of the cheeses and our choice of pasta (shells over the recipe's called-for "pipette"), we made this exactly as written, cutting the amounts in half.
Generally, when we find a new recipe, we do some research but we've never been steered wrong by Lidia - "In Lidia We Trust".
Why did we get so excited about this recipe? There is no Mornay sauce (a béchamel or "white sauce" to which grated cheese is added). The sauce is cheese, milk and two sage leaves. I've seen references to this type of sauce, but hadn't seen any recipes. Another big plus is the topping. Day-old Italian (we used a baguette) bread is hand-grated using the large holes of a box grater, lightly toasted in butter, cooled completely and the crumbs are combined with Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano (we used Romano) cheese. The variation in the crumb size really contributes to the topping's crunchiness.
Oven Ribs and Creamy Coleslaw - oh yeah, we did have a couple of other dishes and they were delicious, too. Lynn made a rub with brown sugar, paprika, onion, garlic, salt and thyme, rubbed down the ribs (1 rack of pork spareribs), wrapped them and refrigerated them for 24 hours and then we cooked them, covered in foil with a little white wine in the bottom of the baking sheet for 3 hours at 250 F, then broiled them for a total of 5 minutes right before serving. We made Al Bergez' sauce to accompany the ribs.
My creamy coleslaw dressing wasn't too creamy or sweet (I never add sugar to my coleslaw dressing) and one important thing to remember - unless you like too much dressing - is to under-dress the coleslaw and let it rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. The moisture released from the coleslaw as it breaks down a little will add to the dressing and the salad remains crunchy without a soupy mess of dressing in the bottom of the bowl.
RECIPES: MACARONI and CHEESE and CREAMY COLESLAW
MACARONI and CHEESE
Maccherone al Formaggio from Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali's cookbook, Lidia's Italy in America
Notes: We made a half-recipe and this could serve 4-6 as a side or 4 as a main dish. We used shells and the three cheeses we used were American Sharp Cheddar, Consider Bardwell Farm's "Pawlet" (purchased at Cowgirl Creamery) and Romano.
COLESLAW with CREAMY DRESSING
Serves 4 as a side.
- 1/3 large head green cabbage, sliced very thin (1/8" to 1/4")
- 1 medium carrot, grated
- 1 rib celery sliced thin
- 2 green onions, sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons white or white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/2 teaspoon + a couple of pinches of salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- Combine the prepared cabbage, carrot, celery and green onions in a large bowl. Season with 2 pinches of salt and toss.
- In a small bowl (1 quart) add the vinegar, Dijon mustard, celery seed, 1/2 teaspoon salt and ground pepper to taste. Whisk to dissolve the salt. Add the mayonnaise and sour cream and whisk until fully homogeneous.
- Add the dressing to the salad in the larger bowl. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for two hours before serving. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to service, taste and, if necessary, adjust the seasoning.