Stella’s Macaroni and Cheese

This may be the comfort food of all comfort foods.  Macaroni and cheese.

So rich, cheesy, warm, filling, and… American.

Here’s my standard recipe for slightly dressed-up but still approachable, baked mac and cheese.  Handle it carefully.

1 lb macaroni
6 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
6 cups whole milk
1 cup sour cream
1 yellow onion, very finely diced
1 tsp paprika, with extra set aside for dusting
~12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
~6 oz. pecorino romano cheese, grated*
~1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large stock pot, bring lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente, approximately 8 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a large casserole dish (or two!) with butter and set aside.

2. Next, melt four tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and stir for constantly until it begins to thicken and is free of lumps, about two minutes. Stir in mustard, milk, sour cream, onion, paprika, salt, and pepper, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, then add 3/4 of the cheese to the skillet.

3. Drain macaroni and return it to the pot. Pour the cheesy sauce mixture over the macaroni and stir thoroughly until the pasta is evenly coated. Fold mixture into casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the top and place the dish in the oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. If you’d like your macaroni a little crispier, broil briefly at the end until nicely browned (about three minutes).

4. After carefully removing the dish from the oven, garnish the dish with paprika and serve immediately.

*I also threw in a little grated horseradish cheddar, which I couldn’t resist at Wheatsville!


Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine

This is sort of a deconstructed, vegetarian carbonara.  Yet another recipe entry that’s straight-up comfort food, with no excuses.

As winter looms, you might want to think about stirring up a pot of this creamy, mushroomy lusciousness.
1 lb. fettuccine
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cups cremini and button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1 heaping Tbsp sour cream
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
sliced Kalamata olives to garnish
additional pepper and cheese to garnish, if desired

1. Bring large, lightly salted pot of water to a boil.

2. In a large skillet, cook garlic and shallots in butter and oil for about two minutes over medium high heat until translucent and fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook until they are softened and the liquid has almost completely evaporated, stirring occasionally. Pour in wine, stir, and allow to cook over medium heat until the wine has also evaporated.

3. Lower heat and add cream, sour cream, cheese, salt, and pepper and stir well; meanwhile, drain pasta and return it to the pot.

4. Fold creamy mushroom sauce into fettuccine and stir thoroughly. Serve immediately, garnished with extra cheese and sliced olives.

Best enjoyed with a large glass of white wine.

Serves 4.

Poblano Pesto

I can’t even begin to tell you how fantastic this is.  You’ll have to trust me.  If you like pesto and chiles, you’ll love it.

Go, make it now.  I’ll be here waiting, eating all the pasta.

2 large poblano chiles
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup crushed cashews
1/2 – 1 cup fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
another 1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Cut chiles in half and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush both sides with olive oil. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning occasionally, or until all peppers are very browned and bubbly.

2. Remove the chiles from the oven and carefully place them in a paper bag. Fold the top of the bag so that the chiles are sealed inside, and let them sit for about ten minutes.

3. Meanwhile, put all other ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor. Once peppers have steamed at least ten minutes, remove them from the bag and place them on a cutting board. Use a paring knife to carefully remove the charred skins, stems, and seeds, and toss aside.

4. Chop chiles and add them to the food processor, then blend while drizzling olive oil through the opening in the top of the machine, blades turning. You may need to stop a couple of times to scrape the mixture off the sides of the processor bowl. Blend well until all ingredients are finely diced and evenly mixed.

5. Serve over pasta, on crackers, or with any other dish you might usually use pesto. This will keep for several days in the fridge. To freeze for later use, simply omit the cheese and add it later when you reheat the pesto.

Makes approximately 2 cups.

If your chile is on the hotter side, serve this pesto in a dish that also incorporates some dairy, which will offset the heat. I made a bowl of spinach spaghetti and added a big dollop of mascarpone!

Creamy Asparagus and Mushroom Pasta with Toasted Pecans

This is another one of those “what’s in the pantry?” recipes that turned out shockingly well.  So I’ll share it with you!

I have also realized that I should really incorporate red pepper flakes more often.

1 lb penne
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 cup cremini mushrooms
splash red wine
1/2 cup homemade vegetable broth
1/2 pound asparagus, thinly bias sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp toasted pecans
2 Tbsp shredded basil
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Bring large, salted pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and red pepper flakes and sautée for a few moments while stirring constantly. Add the mushrooms, wine, salt, and pepper, and continue to sautée until the mushrooms are slightly soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until for about 7-8 minutes, until just al dente.

3. Add the broth and asparagus to the sautée pan and cook, stirring gently, for a further 5 minutes. Then pour in the cream, reducing the heat to low to prevent scorching. Add the basil, butter, pecans, and cheese to the pan and stir well.

4. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the mushrooms, asparagus, and sauce. Cook for an additional three minutes, then remove from heat and allow to sit for about two minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken a bit. Finally, stir once more, then serve with a little extra cheese sprinkled on top.

Serves 4-6.

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

I had never heard of spaghetti squash until recently; it seemed to be popping up everywhere: blogs, friends’ tables, my mom’s office. So when I happened upon one the other day, I decided to give it a try. After all, my experiment with raw zucchini pasta has turned into a tasty obsession. This adds another gluten-free, low-carb, vegetable pasta to the arsenal. It’s slightly crunchier than pasta, but provides a wonderful, sold base for a rich sauce without all the calories and carbs.

Of course, I offset any weight-loss benefits of the fact that it’s made with squash by serving it slathered in full fat alfredo sauce. I’m not convinced full fat is a bad thing, but we’ll save that for another post.

1 spaghetti squash, cooked*
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white wine
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and wine and cook for a few moments, stirring frequently, being careful not to burn garlic. Add squash and stir for a few minutes, until heated through.

2. Add cream and stir for a further three minutes, then add parmesan. Continue stirring until cheese melts and the mixture is heated through. Throw in olives and add the salt and black pepper and stir once more.

3. Serve immediately, topped with fresh basil or parsley, or your choice of meat or vegetable (I suggest shrimp, chicken, or – my favorite – sautéed mushrooms).

*I chose to bake it for an hour at 375°. Be sure to stab it with a fork a few times before cooking, as you would with a baked potato.