baked macaroni and cheese

27Jan08

My mom got me this gorgeous blue food processor for Christmas last year. My cooking has been so sparse that I haven’t ever used it, until now. I made the New York Times macaroni and cheese that Deb from Smitten Kitchen featured about a year and a half ago; it’s utterly fantastic. The best part is that you don’t have to pre-boil the pasta or pre-cook the sauce. Just whiz a few things together in something that whizzes — the recipe says blender, but the only blender we have a) is in a box somewhere like most of our possessions and b) generates an alarming amount of smoke when it’s run. So I used my shiny new food processor, which works fine as long as you’re careful not to spill the liquid sauce all over the processor base when you’re trying to pour it into a bowl. Not that I did that or anything.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Julia Molskin, New York Times

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat) (I did use lowfat — I forgot to buy full fat when I was at the store)
2 cups milk (not skim) (One of those little pint containers of whole milk is perfect)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (I used pre-grated, sorry foodies!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked.

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan. (I’m a heathen — I just sprayed it with PAM.)

2. In a blender, puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together.* Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

3. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

*I took Deb’s suggestion and whizzed everything but the milk together first, then added milk and whizzed again.

It was delicious. And also hard to photograph, although that’s partly my own fault, because I was fending a hungry Don off while I tried to photograph it in our nearly-dark kitchen, with no lights and no setup and a tripod that’s not tall enough to get the camera over the counter. Sigh. I took a few shots of a portion of it in a bowl, but none of them came out. Hopefully next time I make it — and there will be a next time! — I’ll have better luck.

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