Since tomorrow is our comfort food themed Third Thursday and its unpleasantly cold outside, we are still on a warm and fuzzy food kick.   Think stick to your ribs, sit next to a fire and chow down,  unprocessed homemade deliciousness comfort food.  One of the foods at the top of my comfy foods list is mac & cheese.  While there is a place for blue box Kraft mac, and that Stouffer’s stuff in the frozen red box, there is nothing more delicious than home-made mac cooked on the stove then baked in the oven.  Plus mac is kind of trendy and you can jazz it up with lobster or bacon or other fun delicious things.  There used to be a little restaurant on 7th Avenue in NYC that only served different types of mac, one of them being Bacon and Gorgonzola mac and cheese.  One could actually brave the cold on a windy NYC February day if it ended in a little crock of delicious mac.   Wrangle your favorite cooking partner, sip on some vino, and give this recipe a whirl to warm up your winter tummy!

capresemac

Cozy, Comfy, Warm and Fuzzy Caprese Mac & Cheese

Serves 6 using a 1 ½ quart casserole dish

  • ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 ¾ cups milk
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp Salt of the Earth Velvet Guerande salt
  • ⅛ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp Salt of the Earth Tellicherry Black Pepper
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 ½ cups grated sharp white cheddar
  • 1 cup grated gruyere
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mozzarella
  • ½ Benedetto Cavalieri Orecchiette Pasta
  • 1 small can roasted diced tomatoes, drained and pat dry with paper towels
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped basil
  • small amount of ENO EVOO to drizzle, like our Organic Chemlali
  • ¼ cup ENO Mission Fig Balsamic

For the Caprese Topping

  1. Toss roasted tomatoes with chopped basil and the mozzarella.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and set aside.
  2. For the balsamic reduction, add vinegar to a small pot over medium heat and cook until it simmers and starts to reduce and get thick; about 7-8 minutes.  Stir regularly and remove from heat once it starts to thicken.  Let cool

For the Mac

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter your casserole dish and set aside. Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat.  Melt remaining butter in high sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour.  Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking.  Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens.
  3. Remove the pan from heat.  Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne, 1 ½ cups cheddar, and 1 cup gruyere.  Set cheese sauce aside.
  4. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook 2 to 3 minutes shorter than pasta’s directions, until outside is cooked and inside is underdone.  Rinse pasta in a colander under cold water and drain well.  Stir pasta into cheese sauce.
  5. Pour mixture into casserole dish, sprinkle remaining cheese and panko on top.  Bake until browned on top; about 30 minutes.  Let cool for a couple of minutes before adding caprese topping, drizzling balsamic reduction and serving.
  6. Buon appetito!