Comfort food, fast food, nourishing, nostalgic: call it what you like, all I know is that sitting down to a bowl of steaming, cheesy, perfectly cooked pasta is a satisfying dinner like no other. Homemade macaroni and cheese is making a comeback in today’s culinary society, seen on some of the country’s top restaurant menus, and definitely finding a place in our kitchens right now.
On a recent visit to Vincenzo’s in Waterloo, Jody discovered a ‘new’ shape of pasta that she thought would be just perfect to coddle a sharp cheese sauce. The ‘Gnocco Sardo’ pasta from La Molisana is a cross between a shell and a gnocchi, which holds up to the density of the cheese sauce. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of touring the cheeses available at Vincenzo’s, you know there are plenty to choose from. We decided to keep our choices Canadian, and so grabbed a chunk of seven-year-old cheddar cheese and a wedge of Canadian raclette, both from Quebec. The cheddar, on its own, is quite sharp, so paired with the creamy melting properties of the raclette, it is the perfect combination. Next, all we had to do was make a basic béchamel sauce, one of the first things we learned in cooking school, and something my mom says she learned how to make in home economics class.
Feel free to play with the recipe; there is a world of pasta and cheese out there, waiting to be enjoyed.
Quick Homemade Pasta and Cheese (Makes 8 servings)
- 2-450g packages of Gnocco Sardo pasta, or other short, sturdy pasta shape
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 200g Canadian raclette cheese, grated
- 300g Canadian seven-year-old cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 L whole milk
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of salty (and we mean salty, like the sea) water to a roaring boil; add pasta and stir to ensure pasta is not sticking to the bottom; continue to boil until pasta is not quite al dente (it will finish cooking when stirred into the cheese sauce); drain well;
Meanwhile, in a large heavy Dutch oven, melt butter; add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes;
Whisk in cold milk and cook over low-medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally;
Turn off heat and stir in cheeses; taste and season with salt and pepper; add cooked pasta, stir well, and enjoy!