A pound of cheese. A pound of cheese. I still can't get over it. That Ben and I made a dish using a pound of cheese last night, and we're still alive to talk about it. Granted, we didn't eat the whole thing (yet), but still. A pound of cheese! I have to say, I'm grateful to the blog for expanding my culinary horizons (and no jokes about my waistline, please. I unfroze my gym membership yesterday, Just In Time), and for single-handedly preventing my development of osteoporosis. After dinner, Ben pounded a glass of red wine, hoping to rinse out his arteries. I just lay on the couch in a lactic stupor.
Growing up with an Italian mother and an American father who wanted nothing, but nothing, to do with the trappings of typical American childhoods (No television? check. No Cap'n Crunch? check. No must-have, to-die-for, orthopedically-unsound jellies? check), macaroni & cheese was something that was totally foreign to me until I went to college and tried a forkful of bright orange goo one night in a friend's dorm room. I chewed, I swallowed, and I wondered. How did this soft slop become the comfort food of children all over the country? I was suddenly grateful for my parents' insistence on healthy, homemade food. I had taken it for granted.
This is not to say that mac & cheese has to be bad for you (or your children). I don't believe in eating food from a box, but there's nothing wrong with making it from scratch, especially a casserole as easy as this one. As Julia Moskin in last week's NY Times points out, add a crisp salad and a glass of wine to the table, and you've got a pretty nice meal. There's a lot of fat in it, it's true. But there's also a lot of protein and more than your fair share of calcium. And it was delicious. Rich and filling and utterly delicious. It's not exactly the kind of meal I can eat every week, even with my unfrozen gym membership, but I'm keeping the recipe.
First, puree together cottage cheese, mustard powder, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Add milk, a half pound of uncooked elbow pasta, and most of 1 pound of grated cheese (we used extra-sharp cheddar). See this for an idea of the absolutely obscene ratio of pasta to cheese.
Spread this mixture in a buttered pan and bake for half an hour, covered with foil.
Uncover the pan, sprinkle the mixture with the remaining cheese, and put it back in the oven for 30 minutes, at which point it will be bubbling and crusty and your home will smell divine.