It’s hard to imagine any connection between the Dow Jones and food habits, but whenever the stock market takes a dip, people head for their kitchens and neighborhood restaurants and find consolation in comfort food. Chefs who have built their reputations serving rack of lamb and flourless cakes do a culinary about-face and start making family-style meatloaf, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. In some instances, they dress up their recipes with fresh herbs or flavored oils, but macaroni and cheese, even if sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano and served in porcelain casseroles, is still comfort food.
Macaroni and cheese has always seemed to us an American dish, but it turns out the first recipe, with grated cheese and butter, appeared in an English cookbook more than 600 years ago. Years later, French refugees introduced a version of macaroni and cheese to the American South. African-American cooks transformed it into the rich and creamy dish we are familiar with and served it as a vegetable or side.
Children are big fans of macaroni and cheese, especially the kind made from a package, but they also love many of the home-made versions made from the hundreds of recipes available.
In our delectable, made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese, we substituted penne for the elbows. Instead of one cheese, we used a combination of Cheddar, cream cheese, Gruyère and Parmigiano Reggiano. It doesn’t take a down day on Wall Street for us to make macaroni and cheese; it makes us happy any day.
Four-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese
3 cups uncooked penne pasta
1 large egg
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups 2 percent reduced-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons butter
12 saltine crackers, crumbled
1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
2. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch or 8-cup casserole dish.
3. Combine egg, garlic and milk and mix well. Place pasta in a large casserole dish. Add milk mixture and remaining ingredients, except butter and crackers. Mix well with a spoon. Combine butter and crackers. Sprinkle over pasta. Bake 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Serves 8.
Per serving: 390 calories, 23g fat, 90g chol., 18g prot., 28g carbs., 1g fiber, 470mg sodium.
Look for Relish magazine, celebrating America’s love of food, each month in the Tooele Transcript Bulletin. For more Relish recipes, go to relish.com.
Photo credit: Mark Boughton Photography; styling by Teresa Blackburn