Since it's Valentine's Day and all, I thought I'd talk about a few foods that I love.
Eggs. I love you always. Scrambled, fried, poached. Cooked with veggies in an omelet, placed sunny-side-up or over-easy atop a pile of anything edible, dropped into a bowl of soup for a rich, velvety touch.
Avocado on toast. Now to be clear, I love avocados in any form. But I think it's safe to say that only true lovers of the avocado can love it in its simplest form, piled and smeared onto a piece of toast, sprinkled with salt and pepper. Like butter, only better.
And baked pasta. Lately, the everyday toss-some-pasta-with-tomato-sauce-and-call-it-dinner just isn't enough for me. Yet I haven't had the energy to cook up some elaborate pasta dish, with long lists of ingredients that take hours to chop and roast and simmer.
The happy medium, I've found, is baked pasta. It turns the everyday pasta into something a little more special -- slipped into the oven to bubble in a bath of cheese and sauce, a topping of bread crumbs and extra Parmesan forming a crusty, golden-brown layer, cutting through to reveal hot, cheesy, comforting pasta that's far from your everyday and yet still simple enough to make after a long, cold day in dead-of-winter February. Yes. Now that's love.
This particular baked pasta is perhaps the ultimate of all baked pastas: mac and cheese. I took the classic a step further for Murdo's and my tastes, adding prosciutto, peas and onions. Because that's how we show our love around here -- by making those foods that are "just the way you like it," that put a smile on your face when leaning over your bowl, and in the end, have you sitting back and rubbing your belly and just loving life in general, and the good food and good people that come along with it. Those are the best, really.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Baked Mac and Cheese with Prosciutto, Peas and Onions
(adapted from Tyler Florence, via Delish)
As always, please don't take my measurements too seriously. I made this dish a week or two ago, and didn't write anything down, so I can't really be trusted. But go with your own tastes and gut, and the results will be delicious. This mac and cheese is so yummy and easy, it's sure to become a regular around these parts.
1/2 pound pasta (I used penne, but I think any tubular shape will do, even the classic elbow macaroni)
4-5 ounces prosciutto, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
3 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add onions. Cook onions until they are soft and have a nice brown color. I forget how long this takes, but it's several minutes, at least. Add garlic and prosciutto and cook a few minutes longer. Add the frozen peas until they are just heated through, then salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk, and continue whisking vigorously until the mixture is thick and frothy. This takes about 8-12 minutes. Be patient.
Stir in all but about 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese and continue to cook, stirring to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked pasta and prosciutto mixture, and stir to combine.
Transfer to a baking dish coated with cooking spray, and top with remaining cheddar cheese, then top with Parmesan cheese and fresh bread crumbs (Or use plain bread crumbs from a canister. I won't judge you, because that's what I did, too.).
Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.