Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Macaroni cheese or a carrot?

Nothing beats macaroni cheese. It's the ultimate comfort food. Would you rather go home to macaroni cheese or a raw carrot? My case rests.

Macaroni cheese is usually made with short pasta, for no better reason than convenience. It's the kind of food people eat while watching television. You can stick a fork in it and not have to avert your gaze from the screen.

But I use fettuccine instead, and this one small change takes the dish to a whole new level. As you turn your fork to unfurl the long strands of fettuccine from the unctuous clutches of the creamy cheesy sauce in the bowl, it adheres; producing a combination of texture, taste, aroma and culinary sensuality unmatched in fine dining. You just can’t watch TV at the same time, or you’ll flick cheese sauce all over the couch.

Dreamy fettuccine with three cheeses.

Melt 60g - just guess - of butter in a saucepan. Move saucepan off the heat and add enough flour to make a roux, stirring. Once combined, add two cups of milk, put back on the flame and stir until it starts to thicken. Then add a cupful of grated mature cheddar, half a cup of flaked or grated sharp parmesan, and – my secret ingredient – a teaspoon (or more) of hot English mustard. Stir until almost thickened. Cheese sauces may need different degrees of thickness according to their purpose; this must be baked around the pasta, so should not be too thick to start with. Add milk to adjust and keep stirring. When you're happy, scatter a quarter cup of chopped parsley through the sauce.

Cook the pasta quickly. It will cook more in the casserole, so stop at al dente. Drain and place into casserole dish. Drizzle pasta with olive oil. Pour the sauce over the oiled pasta. Draw the strands to allow the sauce to sink and coat all the pasta. Smooth over the top with a spatula. (Mine is, bafflingly to others, called Clark*.)

Before you put it in the oven, dot the top with extra sharp vintage cheddar - the kind that is so mature it cannot be grated but just crumbles - to give it an extra kick. Don't worry about breadcrumbs or any other fussy ingredients. They're a distraction at best and stick in your teeth at worst. Macaroni and cheese is the world's most literal recipe name.

Put the lid on casserole and bake for 30 minutes, then take top off and brown for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Serve with a large glass of Bendigo shiraz and sleep the sleep of kings. Unless you're the type to whom cheese gives nightmares.

*After the 1960s British singer. Ridiculous.

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