Rainy days call for comfort food. Some days just don’t go well start to finish, and today was no exception. As I started to walk home across the Mass Ave bridge, the rain just got harder and harder. By the time I got home my jeans and shoes were soaked, and I was determined not to go out again.
Not going out can be kind of tough when you sort of need to go grocery shopping, but you can make it work. I decided the solution to my rainy day blues was a recipe from the awesome cookbook “Macaroni & Cheese.” I ended up making a variation on “Gratin of Penne with Artichokes and Four Cheeses” and it was AWESOME.
The original recipe is pasted below. I used penne pasta, but since I didn’t have a lot of the ingredients I had to mix things up a bit. I used a combination of Parmesan cheese (direct from Italy and freshly grated) and Goat cheese for the cheeses. I didn’t have any creme fraiche or sour cream, so I subbed in two wedges of Laughing Cow cheese. I used canned artichokes and mixed the whole shebang together, popped it in the oven, and enjoyed a delicious dinner. I think this would work equally well with asparagus and peas. Yuh-um!
10 ounces penne, small rigatoni, or thin elbow macaroni
About 8 ounces cooked fresh artichoke hearts; frozen artichokes, defrosted; or canned (not marinated), rinsed in cold water
1 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup crème fraiche
3 ounces fontina, shredded
4 ounces Emmenthal, Comte or Gruyere, shredded
3 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled
2 to 3 ounces halloumi, pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until almost al dente. Drain and transfer to a large shallow baking pan. Leave the pasta to cool so it’s easier to toss and less likely to fall apart. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dice the artichokes. Toss the pasta with the artichokes, garlic and crème fraiche. Toss in the fontina, Emmenthal and Stilton, one by one. Before adding the halloumi, set aside 2 to 3 tablespoons. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the reserved halloumi over the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until top is lightly browned and crisped in places and the cheese has melted. Serve immediately.
Source: Marlena Spieler, author of Macaroni and Cheese, Chronicle Books, 2006.