As much as I love cooking, sometimes I don't want to be spending lots of time in the kitchen on a Sunday morning preparing a roast, casserole or pie. Last Sunday was one of those days when I wanted to bask in our sunny conservatory with coffee and the papers, feeling good that my morning wasn't going to be dominated by food. The fact that I ended up sorting out my car insurance and going through my bank statement is a moot point. OK, it was papers of a different kind but still accompanied by coffee!
Flicking through Lorraine Pascale's book, Baking Made Easy, earlier in the week, I had decided to make this glammed up version of Macaroni Cheese. I haven't made the less glammed up version for years as our nine year old has always been a bit sniffy about Macaroni, but this dish looked so inviting in the book, I just had to give it a go. It's quick, easy and incredibly tasty, and the verdict from us all? A real winter warmer winner!
salt and freshly ground black pepper
80g pancetta, diced (I used bacon)
1 small handful of fresh thyme leaves (I used 1 tsp dried)
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 handful of chopped fresh parsley
FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE
40g plain flour
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tsp mustard powder
285ml double cream (I opted not to use any cream and used 400ml milk instead)
200g cheddar cheese
115g fresh parmesan
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degs C/gas mark 6
2. Cook the macaroni in a large pan of boiling salted water. It needs to be cooked to just under what you would normally do, as the pasta will be cooked again in the oven. Drain, return to the pan and set aside.
3. Fry the pancetta/bacon in a medium frying pan over a gentle heat, until it just starts to brown and crisp up, then add the thyme and spring onions and cook for a further 3 minutes...
...remove the pan from the heat and add its contents to the pasta.
4. To make the sauce, you can follow the proper method in Lorraine's book, but I always use the cheats method. It works brilliantly and saves an awful lot of time, and if Jamie and Delia make their sauces this way, then I'm absolutely going to as well!
Put all the ingredients, except for the cheese, in a saucepan set over a medium heat and stir (I use a small balloon whisk) until all the ingredients have incorporated. Keep stirring all the time until the sauce starts to thicken. Once it's bubbling, keep stirring until it's nice and thick, then remove from the heat. Essentially, the trick here is to stir continually from start to finish...I guarantee there will be no lumps!
Add two-thirds of both cheeses to the sauce while it is still hot and combine well. There may be a few lumps at this stage but that is fine. Season to taste and add to the pasta mix. Stir everything together and spoon into a shallow casserole dish or 4 individual large ramekins.
Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese and the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the topping goes crumbly and brown. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve while hot.
This recipe comes from Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale