Fancy Cheese ‘n’ Do

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.

'Do for two.

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.

Tonight we took advantage of our overabundance of Ontario cheese, as well as the fresh basil now growing in the kitchen.

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.

Melt about two tablespoons butter in a saucepan.  Add in two tablespoons flour, and mix well so there are no lumps.

Pour in two cups milk and make it nice and hot, though don’t let it boil or burn.

While that’s going on, cook up a box (450g) of small noodles (like macaroni) according to package instructions.  Drain and return to the pot you cooked it in. 

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.

Garbage Soup with Squash, Spinach, Beans and Barley

Don’t let the name of this soup turn you off: it’s just a moniker my mother applied to any soup she made out of what was left in our refrigerator.

This week I had leftover spaghetti squash from my earlier experiment, as well as leftover cavatappi pasta from our spaghetti night.  What to do . . . ?

The nice thing about soups is they’re dead easy.  I filled a large pot with water and set it to boil.  I added a few heaping spoonfuls of Knorr Vegetable Stock (I use the powder instead of the liquid because I usually can’t use a whole carton before it goes bad and I don’t like to waste it).

Let the soup simmer for a couple of hours on medium-low.

I peeled and chopped a large parsnip and a small turnip (actually a rootabega but who’s checking?) and chucked them in the pot, together with a handful of pearl barley and about a cup of dried white beans.  I also added about a cup’s worth of frozen spinach to the mix, as well as the leftover squash and pasta.  There was already a significant amount of basil in the pesto that was on the squash (as well as the hazelnuts and parmesan cheese), so I didn’t add any other herbs to the mix.  When we eat it we usually add salt and pepper to suit our individual tastes.

Once I got the soup boiling, stirring often, I turned it down to a simmer, medium low, for about two hours, until the beans were cooked and the rootabega was tender.

We ate it hot with tabouleh sandwiches, and it was great.

My dad got me these bowls for Christmas. I am Big Al.

I let the rest of it cool and ladled it into yogurt containers for storage.  I find the yogurt container is a good standard measure for freezing, as it contains about two full servings.

Yogurt containers are a good size for two servings.