Recipe: Simple Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese with broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes
Macaroni and cheese with broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes

Almost exactly one year ago, there was some commotion1 in my tiny corner of the Twitterverse about a New York Times recipe from Julia Moskin for macaroni and cheese. There are a zillion mac and cheese recipes, so what caused the commotion? Uncooked macaroni. The recipe calls for uncooked macaroni to be mixed with milk, cheese seasonings, and blended cottage cheese, and then the whole thing baked for 60 minutes. Several in the Twitter commotion were highly skeptical, including me. But we were foolish to doubt the New York Times cooking team: the recipe was a success and has become a ‘go to’ recipe for me.  And it’s also lot easier to make than my previous favorite macaroni and cheese (from the now-gone Paper Palate blog).

The recipe wasn’t quite right for me as originally written, so I have been making changes:  four about ingredients, two about methods.

  1. Cut it down: The first modification happened before I even made the first batch: I thought that 1 pound of cheddar cheese was too much, so I cut it in half.
  2. Frozen: Next, I tried freezing the cottage cheese. The recipe calls for 8 ounces of cottage cheese and I buy it in 16 ounce containers, so I froze the extra 8 ounces and used it in a batch a few weeks later (after defrosting). It was fine — the freeze / thaw cycle didn’t have any negative effects on the dish.
  3. The whole story: Hearing so much about whole grains, it was worth trying a whole wheat pasta. The pasta cooked properly and made the flavors a bit more robust.
  4. Choppin’ lots of broccoli: The final ingredient tweak has been to add some chopped broccoli halfway through the baking time (when the mixture is gently stirred). The broccoli cooks nicely and adds nutrients and flavors.
  5. Simpler combine: The original recipe calls for the milk, seasonings, and cottage cheese to be blended together, and then the mixture combined with the pasta and grated cheese in a large bowl. Instead of mixing everything in a bowl, why not pour the pasta and grated cheese into the blender jar and then mix it by hand? It’s slightly challenging to get a uniform mix in the blender jar, but that can be corrected in the baking dish. (Of course, an immersion blender could also be used in a mixing bowl to blend the cottage cheese, milk and seasonings, and then the pasta added to that bowl.)
  6. One tool, two jobs: A few weeks ago, I had a question while I was washing dishes after making the recipe: Could I use a food processor to grate the cheese and blend the ingredients, thereby cutting the ‘wash list’ by one?  The answer is yes.
    1. Use the food processor’s grater disk to grate the cheese. Remove the cheese and put it on the plate you are going to use for dining to save a dish.
    2. Switch to the blade and process the cottage cheese, 1/2 of the milk, and seasonings.  Unless you have a really big food processor bowl, adding all of the milk might cause some liquid to escape underneath the blade, so I add 1/2 to keep things moving.
    3. Add the dry pasta to the bowl and mix.
    4. Pour into the prepared pan.  Add the remaining milk and most of the grated cheese and stir.

 

Macaroni and cheese with broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes
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Simple Macaroni and Cheese

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cottage cheese not low fat (225 g)
  • 2 cups whole milk (490 g)
  • 1 tsp mustard powder (5 mL)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (2.5 mL)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper (1.25 mL)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (225 g)
  • 8 ounces elbow pasta (225 g)
  • 1/2 cup chopped broccoli optional (120 mL)

Instructions

  1. Butter an 8 x 8" baking dish (20 cm x 20 cm).

  2. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).

  3. Use the grater attachment on the food processor (or another grater) to grate the cheddar cheese.  Move to another container while you work with the wet ingredients. (I often put the grated cheese on a plate I'll be using for the meal.)

  4. Add the cottage cheese, 1/2 of the milk, mustard, salt and pepper to the bowl of the food processor.  Process until smooth.  (or use a blender).

  5. Add the uncooked pasta to the food processor bowl.  (or add them to the blender jar).

  6. Mix by hand until all of the pasta is coated.

  7. Pour into prepared pan. Add the remaining milk all and but about 1/4 c. (~60 mL) of the cheese.  Mix well. Cover with foil.

  8. Bake for 30 minutes.

  9. Stir, add chopped broccoli if using.

  10. Bake for 20 minutes, covered.

  11. Top with reserved cheese.  Bake for 10 minutes, uncovered.

  12. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Recommended Tools
8" x 8" (20 cm x 20 cm) baking dish
Food processor with grater attachment (or blender and grater)
Aluminum foil

This recipe is designed for use with a food processor that has a grating tool.  If you don't have that or don't want to use it, grate the cheese with another tool and use a blender to mix the milk, seasonings, and cottage cheese.

Adapted from a New York Times recipe by Julia Moskin

 

Camilla macaroni label from California Historical Society

Image Credit
Macaroni label, Camilla Brand, Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Co. from California Historical Society’s Flickr collection, no known copyright restrictions.

Note

  1. Watch Stefan (as Big Eddie) get riled up about commotion at 0:26 in this clip from “Flight of the Conchords”

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