It had been a long day. It was Monday. We’d just come off having two (unrelated) guests for the weekend, who were the last of 12 guests who’d stayed with us this summer. I spent six hours on the train for a round trip to Sheffield to transport Andrew, our oldest son, back to university for the year. I had to shop, unpack and help organise him once we got up there. Then I had to sadly leave him behind, which made me more emotional than I expected. When I got to London Bridge at 9 p.m.– the final leg of my journey home– it was crammed with irate people because many of the trains weren’t running.
Needless to say, when I collapsed on the sofa once I returned home, I was pretty tired. And hungry. My plan was to rustle up some scrambled eggs, chopped spinach, feta and sriracha sauce (my Go To Meal when I don’t know what to cook). But those plans quickly changed when my lovely husband told me he’d made this for dinner, even took photos for the blog, and there was plenty left over for me to enjoy.
If that’s not true love, then I don’t know what is.
He did go into a detailed explanation of how he cooked this meal, but I’ve got to be honest– after the aforementioned day I can’t remember now what he said. I do recall that he said it was relatively easy, and that the most notable part of the recipe was the fact that it took 10 eggs. (Luckily, we had eggs to hand. See above.)
The introduction said that this dish is good hot or cold, and I can confirm that’s true. I put some warmish tortilla straight in my gob when I realised what good food awaited me in the kitchen, but I also reheated some in the microwave. It was delicious both times.
This is an excellent addition to our Meat Free Monday rota.
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.
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.