A good macaroni and cheese takes time. At least one that doesn’t come out of a box.
You’re cooking the pasta, grating the cheese, making the cheese sauce, mixing it all up, baking it. For me, it’s too much for a weeknight. I’ve been using a version that involves just stirring grated cheese into the pasta before baking, but the cheese can clump.
That’s why, when leafing through the new cookbook “Home at 7, Dinner at 8” (Kyle, $19.95) by Sophie Wright, the British chef’s mac ’n’ cheese caught my eye. She shortens cooking time by skipping the sauce, but keeps the result homogeneous and creamy by subbing in Boursin and cream cheese. The two melt together quickly in a saucepan, without the fuss and time of a bechamel-based cheese sauce.
The result was delicious, and a new entry into the weekday rotation. The recipe is easily adaptable; Wright suggests adding cooked ham, chicken or mushrooms. In this version, I use fresh baby spinach, which wilts just enough from the pasta’s carry-over heat and the broiler.
Now I think I’ll try some of Wright’s other recipes, such as her minute steak sandwich with fried onions and sweet mustard.
Servings: 6 Ingredients 1 pound penne pasta
5 ounces Boursin cheese 3 tablespoons cream cheese
9 ounces grated mozzarella cheese or fresh mozzarella
6 ounces fresh baby spinach 1/4 to ½ cup breadcrumbs
1/4 to ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions 1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water over high heat until al dente, about 9 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the broiler to medium. Place the Boursin and cream cheese in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook, mixing well, until the cheeses form a sauce. (Or microwave in a bowl, 1½ minutes.) Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot; fold in the melted cheese, pasta water and the mozzarella until well-combined. Stir in the spinach just until incorporated.
3. Pour mixture into a buttered baking dish, 8-9 inches wide and 3 inches deep. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and Parmesan; broil until golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving: 509 calories, 17g fat, 8g saturated fat, 42mg cholesterol, 64g carbohydrates, 29g protein, 536mg sodium, 4g fiber.
Adapted from “Home at 7, Dinner at 8,” by Sophie Wright.