Most Perfectest Mac and Cheese Ever

12 Dec

Mac/Gnocchi and Cheese!

I am a big fan of mac and cheese, in basically any incarnation, from the instant stuff from a box (although since I started making my own I haven’t gone back to the powdered stuff, however easy it may be), to fancy-pants mac and cheese with bacon and truffles, etc, at top restaurants.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, as clearly I love anything that starts with half a stick of butter and ends with a cup of cheese.  I started making skillet mac and cheese last year, with farfalle as the pasta, but this year I have had a mac and cheese revelation of sorts, and started making it with gnocchi instead of traditional pasta.  While it is true that this takes out the “mac” part of mac and cheese, it makes an unbelievably good companion to the cheese sauce, and somehow doesn’t feel too heavy to eat a whole plate of.  Even if you are basically eating potato pasta and cheese.

Various sorts of deliciousness

Gnocchi is easy and cheap to buy in sealed packs at most grocery stores, and only takes about 4 minutes to cook.  I still make a skillet version, which means I toss the gnocchi with the cheese in a frying pan, then top it with more cheese and put it in the oven to bake.  This recipe is very adaptable to whatever your own tastes are- I put some fresh herbs like rosemary and basil in mine, and also a bit of pesto to up the flavor, but you can leave all of that out or go experimenting with other spices and herbs.  You can also use basically whatever cheese you like, although I do usually use at least two different kinds.  Gruyere is amazing but pretty expensive, however I, being a lover of baked potatoes and grilled cheese sandwiches, almost always have my parents buy me some when they are here.  This time I used mainly cheddar (DEVON cheddar from Trader Joes, which is the best cheddar that is, and I’m not only saying that because my family is from Devon), a bit of Gruyere, and Parmesan for the topping.  Finally, if you’ve never made a roux before, which is the flour-and-butter starter for any white pasta sauce, don’t be too scared.  The key is to keep the heat on medium-low and whisk, whisk, whisk, so that the flour doesn’t burn.

The beginnings of the cheese sauce

Gnocchi Mac and Cheese
Makes 4 side servings or 2 main course servings

Equipment: Medium sized frying pan or skillet, medium saucepan, whisk, wooden spoon

1 pound (1 packet) store bought gnocchi
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon pre-made pesto
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
A few fresh basil leaves
About half a sprig of fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.  Prepare gnocchi according to package directions, drain and set aside (it will probably stick together, but just pull it apart before you mix it into the cheese sauce).  Meanwhile, start making the roux for the sauce.  Melt butter in the frying pan over medium heat, then add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds longer.  Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until it starts to bubble.  Then slowly pour in the milk and continue whisking until a thick sauce is formed. Keep on very low heat or take the pan off the heat and add in the Dijon, pesto, and cheddar and Gruyere cheeses. Once all the cheese is melted, season with salt and Pepper.

Add gnocchi to the frying pan and toss to coat with cheese sauce. Add in chopped basil and rosemary, and sprinkle the Parmesan and breadcrumbs on top.  Bake until top is golden and cheese is bubbling, about 20-25 minutes.


One Response to “Most Perfectest Mac and Cheese Ever”

  1. Babygirl December 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    I’ve always wanted to try gnocchi in something. This looks really good.

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