Happy Discovery Day Holiday, Newfoundlanders!
In Newfoundland it’s not called “macaroni and cheese”, nor is it even known by the short form of “mac and cheese.” No, here it’s called “cheese ‘n’ do”. The ‘cheese’ is pretty self-explanatory, but the ‘do’ comes from what locals refer to as “scooby-do pasta,” which is not formed in the shape of a cartoon dog’s face, believe it or not. It’s the long macaroni that curls around itself a few times in a helix, otherwise known as cavatappi (“corkscrew”). I feel like we also called it scooby-do pasta when I was growing up in Nova Scotia, but I need a sibling or parent to back me up on that one. Feel free to tell me as well that I’m completely wrong.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find any cavatappi for this particular recipe (which is odd, this being Newfoundland), so I went with gemelli instead, which is like the double-helix version of scooby-do.
Mac and cheese is one of the Pie’s favourite meals, and this is one that he has perfected over the years. We like to experiment with our cheese sauce, adding spices or even other sauces, and we have in the past added sausages and peppers to the mix. As with most traditional recipes where each of us has preconceived notions of ingredient proportions, my cheese sauce has more cheese in it than he does, and it is a constant fight to get him to add tomatoes. While I used to think tomatoes were a horrid addition to this casserole, my mother always insisted and now I have seen the light. The Pie has not yet come around to the idea. It’s a constant struggle. Anyway, this is mostly his recipe, though I was allowed to contribute in order to post it. Now I know all his secrets.
Grate up between two and three cups of cheese for this recipe, and what kind you use is up to you (though mozzarella doesn’t work very well, gotta say). We used a combination of emmentaler, gruyère, and regular old cheddar. Make sure you have all your additions ready (like if you’re adding meat, it’s cooked and ready to go) before you start melting the cheese. Once the cheese has melted you have a limited amount of time before it starts to burn so you want to work quickly.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Whisk two to three cups grated cheese into your hot milk. You can retain some of this for sprinkling on top of the casserole but that’s up to you. Add lots of salt and pepper to the cheesy mix. We also added several sliced leaves of fresh basil to the sauce at this point.
When the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is thick (careful not to burn it!), empty your sauce into the pot with the noodles and give it a good stir. Make sure the cheese coats all the noodles and whatever else you put in there. We like to add a few things to the noodles, so we put in half a can of diced, drained tomatoes. We also put in some diced cooked bacon.Be thorough in your stirring.Pour out into a sufficiently large casserole dish (9″ x 13″ works well) and smooth out the top. The noise made when stirring macaroni in a sauce is truly disgusting. I love it.
You can sprinkle on any leftover cheese at this stage. Some people like to top their mac with a butter and bread crumb mixture, but we figure we have enough carbs going on, so we just add more fat. Mmmm.Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until the top is crispy and bubbling throughout. Remove from the oven and let it cool for ten minutes or so before serving. If you don’t you will sear the inside of your mouth with molten cheese and everything will get all over the place. The casserole needs to solidify a bit first.Serve it with some vegetables on the side or whatever you want. I like to add a few drops of Tabasco to mine for added spiciness.This keeps well for leftovers, if your husband doesn’t eat it all immediately.