Damn, I wish I hadn't already eaten the last of it. Guess I'll have to make more.
This dish was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe I found in his cookbook COOK WITH JAIME. I love this cookbook, by the way. The photos are stunning and the food all looks so scrumptious - even the dishes with stuff I don't like. Like mushrooms. Ick.
Anyhow, back to my stove here, and Jamie, Oh Jamie - now he's not my type really, but that accent... well, what can I say? I like a guy with an accent (no offense, Mr. Juggling act, but his is a bit cooler than your Mainah accent that leaks out sometimes).
There I go again, getting distracted. Ok, let's focus here - Mac and Cheese... ok, so here's how I made my best mac and cheese dish - evah. (That was for you, dear husband.)
So this recipe was inspired by Jamie - and my second favorite cheese dish, fondue. The sauce beings similar to my favorite fondue recipe. I had a nice bottle of Chateau St. Michelle so that's what I used... I don't drink much or often, but this is one of my favorite wines. So while I sample a bit of that (and my husband played with the children outside), I made my cheese sauce. I know, I know, you're thinking, shut up and tell me how to make it - so here it is:
Best Basil Mac & Cheese Ever
1 lb. penne
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup good white wine (plus a glass for the cook... just sayin')
1 small bunch fresh basil - about 5-6 leaves
3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (also known as 'shaker cheese' in my childhood)
2 ounces cup shredded mozzarella
4 ounces Stella Three Cheese Blend
3 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
¼ of a freshly grated nutmeg
¼ of a freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bring the water for the pasta to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the pasta and season with salt. Cook the pasta until it is almost done (about 1 minute less than what the box says). Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
Chop the basil using the chiffonade technique (stack the leaves, roll them up, slice into ribbons, then chop to desired size). Mince the garlic and onion.
In a medium saucepot over low heat, melt the butter, add most of the basil and all of the onion and cook until the the onion pieces are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes - do not burn the garlic or you'll have to start over. That would stink. Literally.
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Lightly butter a baking dish, and set aside.
Add the wine to the pan and bring up to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and add the cream cheese. Using a wooden spoon, stir until smooth. Next, add the three cheese blend, mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese in handfuls. Basically you want to melt the cheese in batches, stirring constantly. (Don't add the cheddar, that's for the top of the dish, with the bit of leftover chopped basil.)
Season the sauce with the freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste the sauce and if you think it needs a big more flavor, you can adjust the seasonings. If it's too thick, you can add a dash of milk.
Fold the penne into the cheese sauce until well coated. Dump the pasta into the baking dish and sprinkle with remaining basil and cheddar cheese.
Put the pasta in the oven until the pasta appears bubbly. Then turn on the broiler for just a couple moments, until the top layer of cheese browns a bit.
And there you have it, a grown up mac and cheese for the sophisticated palette... or anyone who likes wine and cheese.