I cannot tell you just how much I love macaroni cheese. It was one of the very first things I learned to cook as a child and it has such wonderful memories attached to it. My grandad and his wife Diane used to come and pick us up for school holidays and take us across country to Lincolnshire where I was born. Diane would always make us a giant dish of macaroni cheese and added leeks and pancetta for extra punch. It went straight in the oven when we got to their house and we would sit around the dinner table, catching up and eating every last chunk of pasta from that dish. They had friends, Maggie and Tony, who lived about half way on the journey from Suffolk and occasionally we would stop there to say hi to break up the journey. Maggie loved to cook for us and macaroni cheese was a favourite of hers (knowing how much we loved it too). She was always absolutely astounded at just how much food three kids could pack away!!!
I am always so apprehensive about ordering macaroni cheese when we are out because it's just never as good as I make it. It might be bragging - but it's true. I've had a few good ones in the US but I just don't think we do it well over here - that is, unless it's coming fresh out of my kitchen.
Never one to keep things simple, this is my pimped up version of Mac N Cheese and I hope you love it.
Epic Mac N Cheese
(with chorizo, leeks, courgette and spinach)
400g dried pasta (ironically I don't use macaroni for this recipe- I use penne pasta purely because that's what we always used when we were little!)
3 tbsp Butter
3 tbsp plain flour
600ml milk of choice (I use semi-skimmed)
Freshly ground salt and pepper
150g + 60g (topping) mixed grated cheese (I use smoked cheddar, strong mature cheddar and parmesan cheese)
200g spinach (just use a whole bag)
2 courgettes, halved and sliced
2 leeks, washed and sliced
120g chorizo, sliced and quartered
1. Cook your pasta taking off 2 mins cooking time according to packet instructions (I always set a timer for this!)
2- Make the roux: gently melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the flour once it’s bubbling and stir with a rubber spatula. You need to cook the flour out for a couple of minutes and you’ll end up with a thick paste.
3- Add 1/4 of the milk to the pan and mix into the butter/flour paste using a whisk. Whisk until completely smooth. Continue adding the milk in batches and whisking to prevent any lumps.
4- Season with the salt and pepper and add your 150g mixed cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and you have a rich, creamy sauce. Keep on a low heat and stir regularly. 5- In a large frying pan, fry the chorizo for 2-3 minutes, then add the leeks
and courgette and fry for a further 2-3 minutes with the chorizo.
6- Place the raw spinach into a colander and drain the pasta over the top to wilt the spinach down. Rinse gently with cold water to stop the pasta cooking Further.
7- Heat the grill and place your roasting dish under the grill to warm
8- Add the cooked pasta, wilted spinach, chorizo, leeks and courgette to your hot cheese sauce and stir gently until combined.
9- Pour the cheesy pasta into your roasting dish, top with the remaining cheese and grill until crisp and
Serve with a delicious green side salad!