No one turns down the ultimate comfort food, macaroni and cheese. Those little shells or elbows, cooked a bit softer than al dente, luxuriate in a creamy cheese sauce. A bowl of mac and cheese is always filling and satisfying.
Just a gentle reminder, though – no matter what food companies do, this macaroni dish isn't always an electric orange color. We took the from-scratch route but took some shortcuts. Rather than preparing a traditional roux as the base for the cheese sauce, we thickened the milk and cream with a cornstarch slurry.
Our choice of cheese was a bit offbeat. Most of us think of feta cheese as a topping for Greek salad, but the cheese melts easily and adds a rather subtle flavor to the sauce. A Greek market usually stocks different types of feta that are fresher than the supermarket variety. Because supermarket feta can be salty, taste the sauce before adding any salt.
The most time-consuming part of this recipe is the baking time. Otherwise, putting together this mac and cheese doesn't take much longer than opening the package of the convenience variety.
MACARONI AND CHEESE
>>1 pound macaroni (your choice of shape)
>>2 cups milk
>>1 cup light cream
>>3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water
>>8 ounces feta cheese, drained, if necessary, and crumbled
>>Salt and pepper to taste
>>1 cup breadcrumbs
>>1 tablespoon butter
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a tablespoon of salt. Add pasta and cook to desired doneness. Drain and set aside but keep warm.
Combine milk and cream in a saucepan, and heat over medium heat until warm but not hot, about 165 degrees F. (If milk and cream mixture boils, it may separate.) Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove pan from heat and add feta, stirring until the cheese melts. (Some chunks of feta can remain for a chunky texture.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Because feta is a salty cheese, you may not need much additional salt. Stir in cooked pasta and transfer to a buttered 9-by-13 ovenproof casserole dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of the pasta. Dot with pieces of butter. Bake at 400 degrees F for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 6.