21st Century Mac and Cheese


21st Century Mac and Cheese

Serves 4 and doubles easily.

1/2 pound (2 cups) raw penne or elbow pasta, cooked and drained
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1 small clove garlic
3/4 medium onion, coarsely chopped (see note)
1 generous cup (5 ounces) shredded good quality, extra-sharp cheddar cheese
5 ounces cream cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
Generous 1/8 teaspoon each hot red pepper flakes, salt, and freshly ground black pepper
Generous 1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 saltines, coarsely crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish, and add cooked macaroni.

2. In a blender or food processor combine egg, milk, and garlic, and process 3 seconds. Add onion, cheeses, peppers, salt, and paprika, and blend 10 seconds. Turn into dish, folding into macaroni. Casserole could be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 24 hours at this point.

3. To bake, bring casserole close to room temperature. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Coat crackers with butter and spread over top of casserole. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, or until thick yet creamy. If top is not golden, slip under broiler for a minute. Remove from oven, let stand about 5 minutes, and serve.

From Lynn Rosetto Kasper & Sally Swift's How to Eat Supper.

Tracy's note: Lightly sauté the onions in a little butter before proceeding, there is a background hint of rawness that would be better tamed a bit.