My mom used to buy huge blocks of cheese that we’d practically put cheese on everything. I seriously mean everything. I even put it on top of white rice. Not even lying. Sometimes we’d just microwave it until it melts and eat it. Yup. And vegetables were no exception.
One of my favourite things to munch on as a kids was steamed broccoli with cheddar cheese on top. Not just a sprinkle of cheese, but a mountain of cheese. It was warmed up in the microwave until it was fully melted and oh, it was just so good. So simple too. I wanted to take that memory and recreate it into something new, hence, my broccoli mac ‘n cheese.
Mac ‘n cheese is comfort food at its best. I love a great mac ‘n cheese. It’s one of the most simplest things to make — macaroni, cheddar, milk, flour, basically. But of course, I had to kick it up a notch. And having just come back from Seattle with Beecher’s delightful and sinful chipotle mac ‘n cheese fresh in my mind, I had to recreate it somehow. But knowing myself, I had to make it “healthy”. Hello, broccoli.
The type of cheese that is used in a mac ‘n cheese is probably the most important factor (duh). It’s important to use a sharp, old cheddar as the flavour is more pronounced. Unfortunately, I just had a mild cheddar in my fridge so I decided to spice it up a bit with a pinch of cayenne and red pepper flakes — much needed.
The second most important part of the mac would be the roux. Roux is pretty much a butter and flour paste which helps thicken the cheese sauce. The butter is melted over high heat and flour is added and cooked until toasted. When you toast the flour, it should be very fragrant. And in my opinion, using a whisk is best when making the sauce.
And although I added broccoli to mine, feel free to add whatever mix-ins you’d like. Mac ‘n cheese is one of those dishes where you can really make it your own. It’s a very forgivable dish (cheese, ’nuff said) and the combinations are practically endless. Maybe try a tuna mac, or one with chicken, lobster, crab, butternut squash, kale, etc. Um…yum?
Lastly, I know a lot of mac ‘n cheese is mixed and then baked and sprinkled with breadcrumbs on top but I’m sorry, I just didn’t have enough time! Plus, I was starving and just couldn’t wait. If you’d like, feel free to add some Italian seasoned breadcrumbs with a little parm on top and broil it until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.
Broccoli mac ‘n cheese
What you’ll need:
– 1 pkg (500g) scoobi doo pasta, or macaroni
– 1/4 cup butter
– 4 heaping tbsp all purpose flour
– 3 cups milk
– 4 cups cheddar cheese (old, preferably)
– 1 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
– 4 cups broccoli, florets and stems, steamed
– Salt and pepper
What you’ll need to do:
1. Cook your pasta according to packaged directions until al dente. Drain, rinse through cold water and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan or pot, melt the butter over high heat. Add the flour and whisk until it forms a paste. Toast the roux for 30 seconds and gradually add the milk. The sauce should be thick and creamy.
3. Next, add the cheese and spices. Once everything is well-incorporated, fold in the broccoli. Turn off the heat and add the pasta into the sauce.
4. If desired, place the mac ‘n cheese in an oven-safe dish and top with seasoned breadcrumbs. Broil until the tops are golden brown and cheese is bubbling. Makes 6-8 servings.