Cheese, cheese, cheese! If I had to choose one indulgence I simply couldn't do without, it would be cheese. The inspiration for this post came from one of the wonderful gifts I received this Christmas; Androuet's A Year In Cheese. This beautiful cookbook from artisan fromagerie Androuet celebrates seasonal cooking using my ultimate ingredient. The following recipe, featuring some of my personal favourite cheeses, is completely adaptable to use whatever you have lying in your fridge, perfect after the holidays, or whichever cheese is on offer at your local supermarket. This recipe is ideal for these bleak winter evenings. I like to serve this with fresh crusty bread (yes, more carbs!) and a simple salad.
While on paper it may look like a long process, it is actually incredibly simple and a staple you should be able to pull together at any point. My one bit of advice to make things easier is to have all your ingredients measured out and prepared before.
Ingredients (For 6 servings):
• Six tablespoons of unsalted butter, divided into two lots, two and four tablespoons
• ½ teaspoon of minced garlic, approximately one clove
• 450grams of macaroni*
*I don't always use macaroni, use whatever you have in the cupboard. Ideally, you want small cut pasta such as penne rather than long such as linguini
• 4 tablespoons plain flour
• 700ml full-fat milk, warmed in a pan
• 120g mature cheddar, grated
• 120g comté, grated
• 60g bavarian smoked cheese, chopped roughly
• 60g brie, chopped roughly with the rind removed
• 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard*
*I would recommend using a really good quality mustard here as it cuts through the heaviness of the cheese so you want to be able to taste it
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon pepper
• 100g dried breadcrumbs
Preheat your oven to 180C and grease a deep casserole dish.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook your pasta a minute short of the package instructions as you are going to finish cooking it in the oven later. Drain the pasta and toss it with a teaspoon of oil to stop it sticking and set aside in a bowl.
While the pasta is cooking, add the two tablespoons of butter to another pan and let it melt on a medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute and then add your breadcrumbs. Keep stirring the breadcrumbs in the pot for three to four minutes to stop them sticking transfer them to a bowl and set them aside until later.
In the same pot, melt the remaining four tablespoons of butter. Gradually whisk in the flour until it is all mixed in and reduce the heat to medium. Leave the mix to bubble away for a minute (you are cooking off the flour which will get rid of the raw, doughy flavour. This step is particularly important, don't be tempted to rush it). Slowly start to add your warmed milk, whisking all the time to ensure you get a silky smooth sauce. Adding the milk too quickly, or not stirring constantly will result in a lumpy sauce. Once all the milk has been added, bring the mixture to a boil, still whisking, for two minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
Add your chosen cheese, mustard, salt and pepper and keep stirring until all the cheese has melted. Add the pasta and coat in the sauce and transfer the mix to the prepared casserole dish. Coat the top with the prepared breadcrumbs and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes while mentally preparing for cheese heaven. Enjoy!