I bring a cooked hot lunch to work with me most days – lunch is my big meal of the day (I try to have a lighter supper. And dessert, of course). Sometimes it’s leftovers, but mostly I cook up a big pot of something over the weekend, to save time during the week. I am quite happy eating the same thing every lunch for a few days – especially if it smells and tastes good, I know I’m in for a treat!
This week my lunch has drawn many enquiring noses and envious looks (I have to brag!). Because it does smell good, and look comforting and warming. It’s perfect for the cold weather that has finally thudded down upon Hobart.
It’s a sort of macaroni cheese – loosely a macaroni cheese - with extras. I saw a recipe in one of the supermarket magazines and took that as my starting point; a recipe like this is really just a rough suggestion for ways of making it your own. Which means I won’t be guaranteed of making it the same way twice.
The base of this is pasta and a creamy cheesy ‘sauce’. First deviation (yes, there were many): I didn’t use elbow-shaped macaroni. Instead I boiled up longer, twistier pasta (number 25 by Divella) (aside: I’ve noticed this pasta is ‘denser’ or more substantial than my usual supermarket stuff, so it’s good when you really want to feel like you’ve done some chewing and have a nice belly full of carbs).
While the pasta was boiling along happily, I multi-tasked by steaming some of my favourite vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus) that I’d chopped into small pieces – and then chopped up some more once cooked. I also fried slivers of chorizo (i prefer a chorizo that is quite dry and hard in texture, but wonderfully fiery in the mouth).
Once everything is ready, put the pasta in a big mixing bowl and add a couple of generous spoonfuls of sour cream and a generous amount of grated cheddar. This is the cheat’s beauty of this recipe: no making a roux-based cheese sauce. Saves having yet another saucepan to wash, and saves stirring the butter and flour and milk and … if you make cheese sauce, you know what I’m talking about.
If you’re one of those cooks who like precise directions and quantities for your dishes, you’re probably on the edge of your seat by now, so: to my 200 grams of pasta I started with about three big (serving) spoons of sour cream, and a very large cup of grated cheddar. You need just enough to coat everything and help things move around; a sloppy, liquid ‘sauce’ is not the point of this dish. Start conservatively and add more if necessary, once you’ve added the chorizo and vegies.
I then blobbed the mixture into individual ramekins – ready to take to work – and sprinkled some normal breadcrumbs, panko crumbs (essential, I’ve decided for their delicate crunch, which contrasts to the pasta stodge) and grated parmesan I had loitering in the fridge. I then baked them for about 15 minutes at 180 degrees until golden brown.
I love having the vegetables mooshed thru, and the heat of the chorizo stops this being bland. It’s a wonderful combination. But I’m already thinking of using tinned tuna (tuna mornay!) and subbing the chorizo for lots of parsley and dried chili flakes.
Hmm, maybe I could eat this every day for weeks on end!