Gastrokid Mac and Cheese

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Foodie parents rejoice: at Gastrokid HQ we’ve been working on this an awesome, one-stop, near-Biblical, family food cookbook coming out in August. It’s succinctly titled The Gastrokid Cookbook: How to Feed a Family in a Fast Food World, and it’s our manifesto/manual for parents who want to take their kids on a culinary adventure that doesn’t take much time, tastes great, is good for the world, and is good for you and yours (if you follow our everything—including parental cocktails—in moderation model). It’s got family meals, snacks, breakfasts, strategies and advice on everything required to raise a kid with a healthy attitude toward food.

Regular readers know we’re not ones to cook down to our kids, so don’t look for sneak-it-in Jessica Seinfeld shenanigans. This is real food. For example, we call kale by it’s natural name kale (horrors!), but we blanch it just so and season it well, and have converted brownivores to greenivores and beyond. (sneaking nutrition into homemade food is a short cut to creating little eaters who are out of touch with what makes good food good—not to mention it makes for parents who are, well, sneaky about food. Not a comforting foundation for a healthy approach to eating. I wonder if Mrs. Seinfeld tells her kids she had her wedding party with Jerry at the dearly departed temple of pastrami, the Second Avenue Deli in New York. Or did she tell them they celebrated at the Second Avenue Diet Center?) One way or another, when they get older, she’ll have some explaining to do.

In addition to copious vegetarian recipes, our book has a few, blow-out, high-satisfaction modifications of family favorites, including a version of this recipe for what just might be the best mac and cheese you’ll ever eat.

In the long form the title could be: “Gruyere, Asiago, Parmesan Mac and Cheese With Crispy Sage, Prosciutto, and Roasted Tomatoes” (in it’s short form it’s mac and cheese)

Here’s a sneak peak of the recipe that inspired the version in our cookbook. Yeah, it has a touch of cream. Yep, it’s rich beyond belief. But with this as a baseline experience for your kids, I’m guessing they won’t settle for the boxed stuff. And they’ll realize that good food requires good ingredients and smarter thinking, which is why we think you should pre-order the book for you family, your friends, your impending parent friends, your soon-to-be parents/brides/etc anyone who likes fast and delicious food with a sustainable, shared-by-all, humankind-pleasing bent.

Fully Maximized Homemade Mac and Cheese With Prosciutto, Pan Roasted Tomatoes, and Crispy Sage
This exceptional version of mac and cheese takes a bit longer than the boxed stuff, natch, but is worth it. The better cheese you buy, the better it will taste (and a portion of sharp cheddar can offset the extreme richness of the dish). This recipe (and my family’s adoration of it) is proof that homemade reigns supreme. The pan roasted tomatoes add just a bit of tanginess and melt into the cheese when you cut into them. The sage and prosciutto knock it out of the park. Grating parmesan over the top at the end is optional, delirious overkill.
serves 6
1 pound penne, or little shells, or rigatoni
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 or so fresh whole sage leaves
1/4 cup prosciutto, roughly chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
[1/2] cup heavy cream
5 cups grated cheese (quattro formaggio mix from Trader Joe’s; or 1 and [1/4] cup each parmesan, gruyere, asiago, and cheddar; or whatever ratio you like…)
salt
freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot cook pasta until al dente in boiling salted water, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium high heat, add olive oil, and fry whole sage leaves until crisp but still green. Remove sage from pan and season with salt and pepper. Add chopped prosciutto and cherry tomatoes to pan and fry until prosciutto is crisp and tomatoes lightly browned but not totally mushy. Using a slotted spoon (or any large spoon for that matter) remove prosciutto and tomatoes from pan and set aside. Add butter to pan and let melt, then add flour and stir, cooking until lightly brown. Add cream to pan.
In a large bowl combine grated cheese, cream mixture and pasta. Gently mix it up until cheese and cream mixture are well distributed. If it seems too dry add a bit more cream or milk. Season with pepper. Taste to see if it’s seasoned enough, and if not, add a bit of salt.

Preheat oven to 375. Butter an approximately 8 x 11, 2-inch deep oven ready baking dish or casserole and pour in pasta mixture. Then top with tomatoes, sage, and pancetta. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until the whole thing is bubbly and bit browned in spots. Remove and serve, grating parmesan over the top of each serving if you’d like.
—Hugh

 

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