I wrote previously about how I attended a book release party at Cheese Bar for Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese. This recipe for 3 Cheese Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli and Sweet Pugliese is the first recipe I’ve blogged about from the book, though I’ve actually made a couple others already. Well, let’s say this is one I changed the least so thought I could more fairly share.
One of my favorite recipes from the book is one I barely even follow but use as a guideline: a recipe with Raclette with Farfalle, Cornichons, and Sauteed Onions. I ended up using Farfalle or Bow Tie, and switched out the Raclette for whatever cheese I have available, but throwing in that sweetness from sauteed onions or leeks, and then little cut up cornichons for a bit of acid has been a revelation of a different kind of flavor to mac and cheese.
F looked at me weirdly when he saw me chopping the cornichons (I have also used mini sweet pickles), but it totally makes sense. You often see cornichons on a cheese plate- of course it would work with mac and cheese!
Now, this recipe for 3 Cheese Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli and Sweet Pugliese also originally had pancetta. However, I don’t think there is anything even remotely vegetarian that I can substitute for pancetta, so I simply omitted it.
Instead, I upped the broccoli by a little bit, and added a little bit of olive oil since I didn’t have leftover pancetta frying grease. Instead of chives, I sprinkled some red pepper flakes just for a little hint of heat. I also served this with a side of honey mustard chicken for those who can eat meat (you can use Chik’n for a non meat version- the sauce if vegetarian).
The usage of a sweet pugliese or whatever crusty bread on top really makes for an interesting texture with the mac and cheese and the broccoli makes it healthy, right?
- 12 ounces elbow macaroni
- I omitted this because I wanted it to be vegetarian, but also 1/2 pound/1 cup of thick-cut pancetta, chopped coarsely and fried until crispy. Don’t throw out the fat, you can use it in the recipe! If you are being vegetarian like I was, just use 1/4 cup of olive oil.
- 2 1/2 cups milk – I used 2% milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 ounces aged Cheddar, grated. The book recommends Pineland six-month aged Cheddar, and I happen to use Tillamook Aged Cheddar. The cookbook notes you can use any medium-sharp Cheddar.
- 4 ounces of grated Monterey Jack
- 4 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, chopped coarsely- I just used some shredded mozzarella that’s extra from making pizza
- 2 cups broccoli florets- each floret should be chopped to be about 1-inch in size. The original recipe called for 1 1/2 but I wanted more broccoli since I omitted the pancetta to be vegetarian
- 2 cups coarsely torn sweet Pugliese bread or other crusty bread of your choice – I cut/tore them so they were cubes of about 1 1/2 inches
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives – but instead I used 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, again because I wanted a bit more flavor pop since I was omitting the pancetta to be vegetarian
- Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, mix in with 1/4 cup of olive oil OR the cooked crispy pancetta/pancetta oil and stir to coat the pasta so they don’t stick together. Place in a greased 13×9 casserole dish.
- With the salted boiling water post-pasta, I steamed the broccoli a little bit to soften it. If you are using frozen broccoli florets you can omit this step and just let the broccoli come to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- To make your cheese sauce, start by heating the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the milk starts to steam and there are small bubbles around the edges – in other words no need to boil it, you are just heating it- turn off the heat.
- As soon as the milk is heated, in a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is just melted, stir in the flour and mix until it takes on a light brown color in a few minutes, make sure you keep scraping (I used a silicon spatula) to prevent burning. Slowly add the warmed milk, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for a few minutes. When you dip a spoon in the sauce in progress and lift the spoon out, turn to the back and draw a line with your finger- the sauce should not break that line you drew once it has successfully thickened. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper once you reach this point.
- In small handfuls, add all of the cheeses- the cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Mozzarella, and keep stirring until all the cheeses are completely melted and incorporated into the sauce.
- In the casserole dish that has your pasta, mix in the broccoli and the sauce. Fold everything together. On top, spread the torn sweet Pugliese bread
- Bake for 30 minutes or so until the bread browns and the cheese is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes so you don’t burn your tongue and can enjoy all flavors of this dish. If you’d like, sprinkle generously with chopped fresh chives- in my case I added more freshly ground pepper and my teaspoon of red pepper flakes.