Spanish Mac and Cheese

Spanish Mac and Cheese (4 of 4)

I have been wanting for a very long time to create a stellar macaroni and cheese recipe, one of my all time favorite comfort dishes. I have tried variations including meat, vegetables, herbs and spices and had yet to develop that one flavor that made my taste buds sing.

So I had to take a step back and think about what I loved about mac and cheese dishes I had eaten in the past. Why did their flavors make me remember them long after I had consumed them.  My biggest realization is that sometimes you don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel.  This simple casserole is basically pasta and cheese sauce.  None of the restaurant style varieties had anything different thrown in, just a sharp cheesy tang and tender starchy pasta.  And quite honestly it really is about the cheese.

Spanish Mac and Cheese (2 of 4)

At a recent event at the St. Lawrence Market hosted by the Trade Commission of Spain and ICEX Spain Export my senses were pleasantly assaulted by an unreal number of Spanish cheeses available for taste.  This is a life changing event for any bonafide cheese lover.  Many of the cheeses I was already familiar with; Manchego and Iberico, were massively represented in varying degrees of age yet it also was easy to find some new favorites like the creamy Drunken Goat Cheese, or a nutty Sant Gil d’Albio.

Spanish Mac and Cheese (1 of 4)

Spain’s vast diverse landscape has a huge impact on the production of cheese.  Dairy producing livestock; cows, sheep, and goats are found all over the country yet the terrain in which they live can make a difference in even the most subtle way to the flavor of its milk.  Mountainous , rocky terrain can be favorable to the more hardy stock of goat while rolling hills provide the perfect grazing conditions for sheep.  Mixed milk cheese can be produced throughout the country adding to the over 100 varieties currently available in production.  Local wines and other edible products can also make a difference in the flavors available with some traditions including rinds made of fresh herbs or soaked in local wines.  As a country vast in landscape and climate variety each cheese produced is steep in quality and tradition.

After eating my weight worth of cheeses it was obvious that this is the direction I needed to go in my quest for the best macaroni and cheese.  And with so many of these great Spanish varieties available at my local cheesemonger. Don’t be afraid to change the kinds I used in my recipe with any others your prefer.  I chose 12 year old Manchego and Iberico for the pungent strong flavours and my new dream cheese the creamy Drunken Goat. Go to your cheese counter and ask to try what they have.  People who love cheese have a vast palate for what they prefer much like wine connoisseurs.  Experiment until you find your new favorite.  That’s how this recipe came to be.

Spanish Mac and Cheese (3 of 4)

I would thank to thank the Trade Commission of Spain and ICEX Spain Export , Spanish cheese expert Julie Rogers and Mary Luz Mejia for inviting to this event thus allowing my brain to create this decadent dish.

Spanish Mac and Cheese

I used 4 oz. Drunken Goat cheese, and 3 oz. each of 12 year old Manchego and 12 year old Iberico to make up my 10 oz of cheese for this recipe. Feel free to use any combination you prefer.

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Ingredients

  • 500 g pasta, any shape your prefer
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablspoons flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups milk, warm
  • 10 oz shredded cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of sea salt and your pasta. Cook until just fork tender and drain
  2. While the pasta is cooking preheat your oven to 350 degree F. Coat an 9" oval casserole dish with butter or cooking spray.
  3. In a heavy bottom pan melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
  4. Add the flour and cook stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the roux start to smell nutty, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the milk and stir constantly till thick. Once the milk mixture begins to coat the back of your spoon evenly you know it will be thick enough.
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.
  7. Add the pasta to the sauce, stirring to combine then pour into prepared pan.
  8. In a small bowl or fry pan melt the butter.
  9. Add the bread crumbs and mix well.
  10. Sprinkle the butter bread crumbs evenly on top of your casserole.
  11. Place in preheat oven and cook until top begins to brown and become crunchy, about 20 minutes.
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