The vegetarian portion of our new-baby feast is one of the greatest comfort foods of all time. And let me tell you, this puppy was a labor of love.
Last year we received a very exciting directive from the family – bring a dish to Christmas! As two people working our way up to hosting a real live holiday (Easter 2012, we’ve got our eye on you!) this was the audition opportunity we’d been waiting for. We were assigned a starch that could sub in as an entree for John’s vegetarian cousin. Macaroni and cheese seemed like the obvious choice, but what recipe to use was not. So we did the logical thing: tested out 4 different recipes and ate mac and cheese for no fewer than 10 meals in the month of December.
What’s that? Most people wouldn’t call that logical? Huh.
In the end we decided to use elements from all of the recipes, resulting in the very first recipe written by us! Not gonna lie, we’re pretty proud of it.
- 8 oz (about 2 1/2 cups) cavatappi pasta, uncooked
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (if you are fantasizing about truffle mac served in many restaurants, this is where you can sub in truffle oil, or any other flavored oil)
- 1/4 tsp lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp butter, divided
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp Cholula hot sauce (or other hot sauce, if you can’t find Cholula)
- 1 packed cup (5 oz) Gruyere cheese, shredded, divided
- 1 packed cup (5 oz) white cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup panko
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, until just tender.
- Drain pasta and toss with olive oil and lemon juice. Set aside.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in cream, half and half, and sour cream.
- Stir in onion, garlic, bay leaf, sugar, and Cholula.
- Simmer gently, stirring often, 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Stir in 3/4 cup Gruyere cheese, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, and dry mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove bay leaf.
- Stir cavatappi into cheese sauce.*
- Pour half of cavatappi mixture into a greased, high sided 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/8 cup Gruyere and 1/8 cup cheddar. Top with remaining cavatappi mixture and remaining cheese.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add panko to butter and toss to coat. Sprinkle panko mixture over macaroni.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
*If you want to add mix-ins such as bacon, mushrooms, chicken, spinach, etc, this is the time to do it (step 10). They should be pre-sauteed and well-drained from any water or cooking fat.
Serves 4 as an entree or 8 as a side dish.