What I should have done, I realise now, was to take an action shot of this mac and cheese. In the cookbook, the spoon hovers just over the dish, with pasta heaped on top and loads of cheese cascading down. My picture above does not show any of this, and I apologise. But believe me when I tell you that this dish, like many others in this cookbook, contains oodles (I’m sure that’s the technical term) of cheese.
As regular readers of this blog know, our family already has a Desert Island Mac and Cheese, this one from the New York Times. I’ve been making it since it was first published in January 2006, which tells you all you need to know about its staying power.
So was this version better? No, though I’m beginning to think that no version is going to be an improvement on the one we love so much. But was this version at least as good? Again, no.The inclusion of crushed Ritz crackers on the top was an intriguing addition, but it wasn’t enough for us to fall in love with it. It tasted good, it was quicker to make and it wasn’t a disaster, but I couldn’t in good conscience say that it was as good as our beloved favourite.
The oodles of cheese were good, though.
If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this sentence to find it on the Half Baked Harvest blog.
I’m not really sure what fresh pasta has to do with a Paris kitchen, but David Lebovitz says in the introduction that he can’t say the French word for noodles (nouilles) so he skirts around the issue by making fresh pasta. It seems to me that he’s going to a lot of trouble to not say one word, but I can also appreciate how some French words are tricky to say, so I guess I can understand.
We have made fresh pasta before– we’ve even got the pasta maker (see photo above)– but it’s been a while. It’s been so long since we made it that I had to excavate it from the back of little-used cabinet. I couldn’t even guess when the fresh pasta making occurred, but my memory of past episodes was that it took an entire afternoon and it was a real pain to do. It’s hard to justify spending hours making something when you can get pretty decent pasta in your local shop, so that’s probably why we haven’t done it in a long time.
But we were pleasantly surprised at how straightforward this was. The drying of pasta step, which used to stymie us in the past, is skipped, so that may have made it that much easier. Also, the first mix of flour, semolina and eggs was done in the food processor, rather than by hand, which also made it a bit easier. The second kneading step, though, was done by hand.
The semolina we used was a bit dry, so we had to use more water so the dough wouldn’t be dry. You’re warned that might be the case, so we didn’t panic. For the herbs, we used a mix of parsley and thyme, which worked a treat when we paired it with the chicken piccata we had as a main.
Would we make this again? Absolutely. We’ve even moved the pasta maker into a more accessible location so we can do it again soon.