This is a pretty straightforward recipe … a simple “Mediterranean” play on Mac n Cheese, if you will. Natasha over at 5 Star Foodie hosts the monthly event dubbed the “5 Star Makeover Challenge” by way of which she urges fellow bloggers to revamp a popular dish/recipe each month. For example, January focused on cornbread, February on mousse and March on compound butter. This month (April) the challenge is to makeover a pasta dish.
I’m not re-inventing the wheel here, I know … but I thought a little Mediterranean twist on Macaroni and Cheese would be something interesting to look into (or dig into for that matter). So, to start things off I tried to keep things somewhat healthy by altogether cutting out the butter normally used in Mac n Cheese recipes — believe it or not, I used an oil spread/olive oil to start my roux. And it worked. Moving on, I used some Greek and Italiancheeses to brighten up the resulting cheese “sauce.” What’s more, I transformed the usual breadcrumb topping by pulsing together Greek rusks (Cretan actually), Kalamata olives, capers, grated cheese, parsley and olive oil, providing a vibrant Mediterranean punch and proving to be the perfect counterpart to the rich, cheesy macaroni.
I think I’ve only made a “regular” Macaroni and Cheese recipe for the kids just once before, so they didn’t really have much to compare it to, but they gobbled it up regardless … which leads me to believe this pretty family-friendly and a nice break from the norm. Kali Orexi!
Mediterranean Mac n Cheese
Makes a 9 x 13 baking dish
1 lb. elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons margarine/oil spread
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups Half and Half
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces Fontina cheese, cubed
4 ounces Kefalograviera, cubed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Greek rusks
8 -10 Kalamata olives, pitted
1 tablespoon capers
Handful of parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a rectangular baking dish and set aside.
Make the sauce: heat the margarine/oil spread and olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and stir continuously about 3 minutes. Slowly add the milk and half and half; bring to a simmer and whisk often. Once thickened, add the nutmeg, cheeses, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Meanwhile, boil macaroni for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and add it to the baking dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and mix lightly with a wooden spoon.
To make the topping, break apart the rusks and the pieces to bowl of a food processor. Add the olives, capers, parsley and grated cheese and pulse until the rusks are reduced to crumbs. Add the olive oil and pulse. Season with pepper then sprinkle evenly over the macaroni in the baking dish.
Bake the macaroni, uncovered, in the center of the oven for about 25 minutes. Let sit five minutes to cool before serving.