Whoever wrote ‘comfort me with apples’* obviously didn’t ever sit down to a bowl of macaroni cheese. The Boy Wonder hates it, thanks to some traumatic childhood experience, so it has attained almost mythic fantasy food status for me because we never have it. In the weekend, when I was working and solo parenting and gardening and cleaning (and everyone else was partying, including our neighbours), I made some as a special treat. The Small Girl, being an avowed lover of all things pasta, adored it, but not as much as her exhausted, cheese-and-carbohydrate-craving, mother.
Instant Macaroni Cheese
This is essentially a Nigella Express recipe, but with a little less cheese – and no macaroni, because I use rigatoni or penne instead. The bigger shapes are better because they fill up with the sauce like miniature cannelloni. This quantity is perfect for one adult and one child, especially if the adult is ravenous. I know the evaporated milk makes it sound like one of those ‘4 Ingredients’ dishes I was snooty about last week, but trust me, it really is good. And there aren’t any dishes!
125g rigatoni or penne
1/2 cup evaporated milk (the ‘lite’ version is fine)
2-3 handfuls of grated cheddar
pinch of smoked paprika and/or cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
a little extra grated cheese and some stale baguette, for crumbs
Preheat the oven to 200C. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. While it’s cooking, mix all the other ingredients together in an ovenproof bowl big enough to take the pasta. Drain the pasta, then put it in the bowl with the cheese mixture and stir until it’s well coated. Sprinkle over the extra cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden and crunchy on top. Be careful if giving this to a small child – the sauce is hotter than napalm.
What’s your stress-busting dish of choice?
* I do know who wrote ‘Comfort me with apples’ (for I am sick of love) you know. I don’t just sit around with my nose in a recipe book. (And it wasn’t Ruth Reichl, neither.)