Recipe 72: Creamy Corn Mac and Cheese

Happy New Year, Weekly Mackers! May 2017 bring all sorts of new recipes to this blog.

 

Creamy Corn Mac and Cheese (from The Kitchn)

Serves 6
10 ounces medium-sized dry pasta shells (mine were corn)
2 tablespoons butter (mine was salted)
2 cups corn kernels (I used frozen kernels that had been thawed)
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used Half-N-Half, but I’d recommend using heavy cream as the recipe says)
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves, divided (I just tore mine roughly; I’d recommend mincing it)
1/2 cup freshly crumbled feta cheese (preferably French or Bulgarian), divided (mine was whatever they had at the grocery store, probably Greek style)
Red pepper flakes (I used two heavy pinches; use more or less as you see fit)
Salt

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat (mine was not that heavily salted; you should make it taste like seawater). Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta; set aside.

(This step you should do right when the pasta is almost done cooking; I didn’t and burned some of my corn). Melt the butter in a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the corn and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water, pasta shells, cream, and half of the basil and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in half of the feta and mix until creamy and the shells are coated, about 2 to 3 minutes more.

Remove from the heat and season with salt (I should have used more salt; I held back because I figured the feta would be salty enough). Top with remaining feta, basil, and red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

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Verdict: 3.5/5 – Between the corn, the basil, and even the feta, this recipe was bursting with summer with just the right amount of zing from the red pepper flakes. Still, this recipe was missing something, but I suspect it’s salt; I was sparing when I should have been generous. So if you make this recipe, learn from my mistake and don’t hold back on the salt.


Recipe 70: Bow ties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon, and Ricotta

I saw this recipe and thought it sounded like spring, so I had to try it.

Bowties with Sugar Snaps, Lemon, and Ricotta – from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

Salt for pasta water
1 pound sugar snaps
1 pound dried pasta bowties
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) finely grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (Loverman forgot this…)
Glug, then drizzle, of olive oil
Coarse or fine sea salt for sprinkling
Ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste
Few leaves of mint, slivered
1 cup ricotta; use fresh if you can find or have motivation to make it

Directions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. While waiting, string sugar snaps and cut into 1/2-inch segments. Cook bowties for two minutes less than the suggested cooking time on the package, then add sugar snaps to pasta. Cook for one minute more. Reserve one cup pasta cooking water, then drain sugar snaps and bowties. Add them back to the empty pot with 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, grated cheese, a glug of olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook on high for one minute, tossing constantly. Add a splash more cooking water if pasta looks too dry. Turn heat off, dollop ricotta all over in large spoonfuls and, without stirring, tip pasta mixture into a wide serving bowl. (I do this because I love the idea of finding slightly unmixed pockets of ricotta.) Drizzle pasta with a small amount of olive oil, then squeeze lemon juice over the whole dish, sprinkle with mint, and finish with an extra sprinkling of parmesan. Serve quickly; eat happily.

(Lemon juice, rather rudely, discolors green vegetables so be sure to add this only right before serving, and when it will be eaten before anyone will care.)

Verdict: 2.5/5 – Due for a do-over.  Like I said, Loverman forgot the pecorino.  Without it, it was somewhat bland.  Also Loverman didn’t cut up the sugar snaps, which made it awkward to eat.  He liked it with the mint and the pepper.

 

 

 


Recipe 67: Creamy Lemon Mac Primavera

I recently made dinner for my dad, but don’t worry!  Mom hasn’t been left out!  Today is her birthday (happy birthday, Mom!), so a few days ago I had her over and made her lunch.

Creamy Lemon Mac Primavera (from All Things Mac and Cheese)

Ingredients

8 ounces penne pasta (I used corn and rice elbows)
1 tablespoon butter
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 small zucchini, cut into matchsticks (Loverman got a summer squash, so I used that instead)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup Wisconsin ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream (I used half and half)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) Wisconsin parmesan cheese, grated
1 lemon, zest and juice

Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.
Meanwhile, melt butter in small skillet; add carrot, bell pepper, zucchini, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat until vegetables soften but retain their bright color, about 5 minutes.
In small bowl, combine ricotta, cream and parmesan cheese; mix until smooth. Stir in lemon zest and juice.
Drain pasta and immediately toss with cheese mixture; stir in vegetables. Serve with additional parmesan cheese for topping.

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Verdict: 3/5 – This claimed to only serve two, but both of us had seconds and there was still some leftover.  The different vegetables added lots of texture elements, but the flavor was a little meh.  The lemon was bright, a nice burst of citrus in this cold winter, but you definitely needed that extra Parmesan to punch things up.


Recipe 65: Mac and Blue

I love my dad.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a daddy’s girl, but my dad just gets me – or at least, when he doesn’t, he admits he doesn’t.  We’re both nerds for history, and we love a lot of the same foods.  Most of those are foods that are bad for you, or “death on a stick,” as he calls it.

One of those foods is blue cheese.  Dad puts it on everything, either the cheese itself or the dressing.  While I don’t carry my love of the blue stuff that far, I do love a chance to highlight it whenever I can.  So when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to serve it to my dad when he came to visit.

Mac and Blue (from the Rachael Ray Show)

Ingredients

1 pound cavatappi or other short cut of spiral or hollow pasta (I used corn elbows)
3 tablespoons butter
1 large clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk (I used skim)
1 cup whipping cream  (I used Half and Half)
White pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon ground mustard
Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
2 cups grated white cheddar cheese or Gruyère cheese (I used white cheddar)
1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese, such as Maytag Blue or Stilton
3 to 4 tablespoons minced chives (optional)

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it liberally. Undercook pasta by 2 minutes, drain and reserve. Melt butter with garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Swirl garlic a minute or so to infuse the butter then discard. Sprinkle flour over the garlic butter then whisk in milk and cream. Let thicken then season sauce with salt, white pepper, mustard and nutmeg. Stir in 2/3 of the cheese to combine, reserving some of both for topping the mac. Toss in reserved pasta and chives, transfer to baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until brown and bubbly, 30 minutes.

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Verdict: 4/5

This recipe was made for me, my dad, and my husband.  All three of us had seconds.  The only downside is that it didnt reheat terribly well, whigh might be because of the gluten-free pasta.  But this is definitely a mac I would make again.


Recipe 64: Stovetop Avocado Mac and Cheese

I’ve talked before how certain foods and I have strained relationships.  These foods are ones that I want to like more, but struggle to get my brain and my palate to meet.  Avocado is one of those foods.  I never liked guacamole, and only recently am I trying to nourish a pleasant relationship with this super-food.  This mac seemed like the perfect chance to try to make things right.

Stovetop Avocado Mac and Cheese (by Two Peas and their Pod)

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces dry elbow macaroni (I accidentally cooked the whole bag of corn elbows, so I eye-balled 10oz)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded Pepper Jack cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
    Fresh avocado chunks, for garnish, if desired

Directions

Place macaroni in a large bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over the macaroni and stir until well coated. Add the cheese sauce and stir until macaroni is coated and creamy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm. Garnish with fresh avocado chunks, if desired.

Note-the lime juice keeps the avocado from browning. The mac and cheese is best eaten the first day, but it is still good the second day. The pasta may turn slightly brown, but not bad. If you want a milder flavor, you can use Monterey Jack or White Cheddar Cheese

VERDICT: 2.5/5 – Due for a Do-Over: Here’s the thing about avocados: They really need to be ripe.  Not thinking this recipe would be made for another few days, hubby bought under-ripe avocados.  This really detracted from the enjoyment of the dish – just big, unripe chunks that the food processor couldn’t manage to chop up because it was over-stuffed already.  The flavors were good, but the texture was just mealy and unpleasant.  I would try this again with ripe avocados.  It still doesn’t compare, in my mind, to the other mac we had that featured avocado, but it still has the potential to be a good dish.


Recipe 63: Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese

You know me.  I make no secret about the fact that I’m gluten-free.  Heck, I have a whole heading where I talk about different gluten-free pastas.  But what might not have noticed is he fact that most of the recipes I make I’m adapting to be gluten-free from “normal” recipes.  Sometimes that makes things go funny.  Remember the mac and cheesecake?  That was probably the disaster it was because of gluten-free pasta.

But every now and then I’m lucky enough to find a recipe made especially for those of us of the gluten-free persuasion.  A recipe which takes into account the quirks of gluten-free pasta.  And when it’s nice and easy like this one?  How could I say no?

Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese (by Gluten-Free Girl and Presented by Parade Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb gluten-free macaroni, elbows or shells (DeLallo, for example) – I used Wegman’s brand of corn shells
  • 1 cup (4 oz) grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz soft goat cheese or cream cheese
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – I suggest a heavy hand with these.

Directions

 

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
  • Spread cheddar in bottom of a large bowl. Dot with goat cheese. Drain pasta, reserving ¾ cup pasta water. Add drained pasta on top of cheeses. Pour ½ cup pasta water over pasta. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until pasta is coated with sauce. If you’d like it creamier, add more pasta water, 1 Tbsp at a time. Season with salt and pepper.

 

And here she is!

And here she is!

VERDICT: 3/5 – I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical of how the mechanics of mixing the sauce would work, but it worked like a charm.  The texture is a little one-note since there aren’t any mix-ins, but this is a great flavor.  This would be one of those that serves as a great base for other flavors.  I think chicken or mushrooms would be at home here, maybe even shrimp.  It withstood warming up in the microwave, but by then it was a bit bland.  I think use this as a base recipe and you’ll be much happier.

 

I made this recipe a few days ago, and already tonight I have a new recipe to update you with!  We’re rich with mac and cheese in this house!


Recipe 62: Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Summer isn’t the best season for mac and cheese, lets be honest.  It’s so hot you don’t want to fire up the oven or load up on carbs.  But there is an exception to every rule.  I saw this recipe and decided with the lemon and fresh basil, it would be perfect for summer.

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil (from The Kitchn)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta, small shapes, like rotini, penne, fusilli, and gemelli (I used corn elbows)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, preferably freshly-made
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I used Pecorino-Romano, as I tend to prefer it)
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used Kosher)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, sliced into a chiffonade

Directions

Set a pot of water to boil. When it boils, add a few teaspoons of salt and the pasta.

In a metal bowl wide enough to fit over the top of the pot (or glass; that’s what I used), mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, olive oil, juice and zest of lemon, salt, and black pepper. When there are about 2 minutes remaining in the pasta’s cooking time, place the bowl over the pot and slowly stir the ricotta and other ingredients. You should see it loosening as it warms.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it, add the basil to the bowl of sauce and toss with the drained pasta. Serve immediately.

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VERDICT: 3.5/5 – The flavor is pretty great, but I actually could do with more lemon.  Maybe use lemon pepper or a lemon-flavored olive oil to amp things up.  Also, while the flavor was there, the texture left me wanting.  Maybe Loverman’s usual suggestion of chicken would work, but I think also shrimp or even tempeh would be at home here.  But with the lemon, the basil, and the ricotta, this was a perfectly light meal for summer.

Here’s a question, Weekly Mackers: if I made a Twitter feed, would you follow it?  I don’t have one right now, but I’m toying with the idea.  Let me know either way!