The Blue Box Blues • 08.06.08
I have a confession to make. I am a total macaroni and cheese snob. Always have been. Growing up, my mom always used Velveeta Shells and Cheese. I can still sing the theme song from the Velveeta commercials… “It’s Velveeta! Versus Cheddar! Our Velveeta! Melts much better!” Sing along… you know you want to.
One summer, when we were in New Jersey visiting family, my grandmother made mac and cheese for my brother and me. Sadly, it wasn’t Velveeta. It was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. From the blue box. (Another song I can sing… “I got the blues! The Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Blues!” I am a marketing manager’s dream come true.) I can literally still remember asking my mother why we had to eat this inferior mac and cheese. “Where are the shells?” said I. “Be quiet and eat your dinner” said my mother. Wise words.
When I got to college Kraft Easy Mac was all the rage. Long night studying? Out late drinking? Dining hall food too gross to contemplate… again? The magical blue box came to the rescue of higher learners everywhere. Except me. I have never been able to eat Kraft Mac and Cheese. It’s not good.
But, having said that, neither is Velveeta. I’m not going to lie. I still eat Velveeta Shells and Cheese (my mother mails it to me in large boxes because it’s not sold in AU… how great is she??) but more for the nostalgic childhood memories it evokes than because it tastes great. No, in matters of mac and cheese, I have matured my friends. I have taken that crucial step into mac and cheese adult-hood, and I’m not looking back.
This recipe takes all the great things about the mac and cheese of my childhood (creaminess, carby-ness, cheesy-ness) and makes them EVEN BETTER! I know! Last week was tough- stress at work, rain and cold and the final episode of The Amazing Race for months (AU is way behind on The Amazing Race). But with the help of this mac and cheese, we made it through. It’s like a warm, cozy blanket for your belly. Comforting while still being delicious and classy enough to serve to your friends. That is, assuming your friends aren’t as annoying as I was as a kid- wanting to know where the shells are. If that is the case, feed them the Velveeta and keep this mac and cheese to yourself. They are clearly not ready.
Mac and cheese for grown ups
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup cottage cheese (don’t use low fat!)
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne (or just a pinch)
1 lb (or 500g) sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used Cracker Barrel Sharp Cheddar)
1/2 lb (or 250g) elbow pasta (don’t pre-cook it!)
Preheat oven to 190C (about 375F). Butter a 9 inch baking pan with the 1 tbs butter (I used a pan that was bigger than 9 inches and it was fine).
Combine the cottage cheese, milk, salt, pepper, mustard and cayenne in a blender and blend for about 1 minute until well mixed and few lumps remain.
Set 1/3 cup of the grated cheese aside.
Combine the remaining cheese, the milk mixture from the blender and the pasta. Stir well and pour into the buttered baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins.
Remove the pan from the oven. Uncover and stir. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and return to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 30 more minutes until browned and bubbly on top.
Remove from the oven. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Goes brilliantly with a crisp salad and a cold glass of white wine.