Mac and cheese will get taste improve with wine-braised fennel

It’s exhausting to go flawed with macaroni and cheese. A staple consolation meals, its tacky goodness is cherished by youngsters and adults alike, for lunch, dinner or a late-night snack. Even the blue-box selection can hit the spot in a pinch. But to essentially take it to the following degree, you actually ought to go all out with a wealthy, selfmade cheese sauce.

This recipe will get a chic improve with the addition of fennel, an fragrant veggie with a licorice-like taste and crunch that reminds you of celery. It will get a fast braise in Marsala wine, which makes it candy, and the leftover cooking liquid is then used to make the creamy sauce with mascarpone and Swiss cheese as an alternative of the standard cheddar. Diced ham steak makes the dish much more of a hearty keeper.

The authentic recipe requires making the mac and cheese in a buttered casserole dish, however I made it a one-pot meal by combining the whole lot within the 12-inch forged iron skillet used to make the cheese sauce. I additionally used shredded Swiss as an alternative of the really helpful grated Gruyère.

Don’t skimp on the panko-and-Parmesan topping: It provides a scrumptious crunch.


For the fennel:

6 c. water

4 small fennel bulbs, sliced

1/4 c. candy Marsala wine

2 recent bay leaves

1 T. kosher salt

For the sauce:

1/4 c. unsalted butter

1/4 c. all-purpose flour

2 c. cooking liquid from braised fennel

1 8-oz. container mascarpone

1 c. grated Swiss cheese

1/2 t. kosher salt

1/4 t. white pepper

For meeting:

1 T. kosher salt

8 oz. dried campanelle pasta

6 oz. ham steak, reduce into 1/2-inch cube

1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare fennel: Place water, fennel, Marsala, bay leaves and salt in a 4-quart saucepan and convey to a boil. Reduce warmth and simmer till fennel is tender, about quarter-hour. Strain, reserving 2 cups of cooking liquid. Set braised fennel apart.

In a big cast-iron skillet, put together sauce. Melt butter in pan over medium-low warmth. Add flour and stir till aromatic and golden brown, 3 to five minutes. Gradually whisk in reserved fennel liquid. Bring combination to a boil and prepare dinner till thickened, about 5 to eight minutes. Add mascarpone, Swiss, salt and pepper, then stir to include. Keep heat whilst you put together pasta.

Preheat oven to 350 levels. Bring a big pot of water seasoned with a tablespoon of salt to boil. Add pasta and solely partially prepare dinner for 4 minutes, stirring often (it would proceed cooking within the oven). Drain pasta.

Mix pasta, braised fennel and ham within the skillet with the cheese sauce. Stir to mix properly, ensuring the entire pasta is coated in sauce. Cover with panko and Parmesan, then drizzle with oil. Bake till prime is golden brown and pasta is effervescent, about 35 to 40 minutes

Serve sizzling. Serves 6.

(Adapted from “Lush Life: Food & Drinks From the Garden” by Valerie Rice, Prospect Park, $35)

— Tribune News Service

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