If I've learnt one thing from my American friends, it's that macaroni cheese can have a near-infinite number of variations. I'm not sure I would have thought of taking Mexican inspiration and applying it to a cheesey pasta bake, if I hadn't seen US menus with pages full of mac'n'cheese variations. But adding some Mexican spices to the cheese sauce worked really well, and it was nice to have a few extra veggies in the mix, so I can definitely see myself making more variations in future.
I used a modified version of Pinch of Yum's cauliflower alfredo recipe, just for a bit of a change, but you could also make this dish with a regular white sauce. I've seen this sauce around (on Pinterest, mostly) and really wanted to try it out. Andy was very skeptical of the cauliflower sauce right up until he tasted it, at which point he said I could make it again! It's not much like a traditional white sauce, but it is tasty, so do give it a go if you're halfway tempted. (Ingredients & instructions for both sauce options are at the bottom of this post, or you could just use your favourite recipe.)
Of course, I've never felt it was particularly necessary to use macaroni in macaroni cheese, either: today I used fusilli, because that's just what happened to be in the cupboard.
|The theme for August's Pasta Please challenge is pasta bakes, hosted over at Cate's Cates. I'm also linking up at Let's Cook With Cheese and Deena's Fusion Food Challenge.|
Mexican-Inspired Macaroni Cheese
1tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 sweet red pepper
1 small red onion
5 spring onions (green onions)
100g (4oz) tinned sweetcorn
white sauce (see below)
½tsp smoked paprika
100g (4oz) mature cheddar cheese
200g (8oz) pasta
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan.
- Crush the garlic into the oil, and sautee until soft.
- Finely chop the onion, red pepper, and spring onions. Drain the sweetcorn.
- Set aside the softened garlic, and in the remaining oil, fry the onion and red pepper until soft.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F).
- Make the white sauce (see below), and stir through the cumin, paprika, sauteed garlic, and ¾ of the cheese.
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
- Add the pasta to the white sauce, along with the vegetables.
- Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
½pint vegetable stock
350g (12oz) cauliflower
2tbsp double cream
- Heat the stock in a medium saucepan, and add the cauliflower.
- Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.
- Transfer the cauliflower to a blender or foodprocessor, along with about 250ml (1 cup) of stock, and puree until smooth.
- Add the cream and stir until combined.
25g (1oz) butter
50g (2oz) flour
300ml full-fat milk
- Heat the butter in a small pan.
- Once the butter is melted, add the flour and cook for a few minutes over a low heat to form a roux.
- Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring to break up any lumps.
- Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly. The sauce should start to thicken after about five minutes.