Lincolnshire pasta al gratin
While I enjoy the fresh, new life and warm breezes that the Lincolnshire spring brings us, it’s these wonderfully crisp and bright autumnal days that I love the most.
Wrapping up in my cosiest cashmere jumper and walking by the side of The Great Eau, the leaves turning a hundred shades from golden to red as my breath catches in the air… and the promise of Christmas on the horizon, I have to say this is my favourite season.
The cold is also a great excuse to eat all those wonderful comfort foods like soups and stews. Now that my ‘bikini body’ is well and truly tucked away for another six months, I’m more than happy to pack on the carbs too.
This macaroni cheese is a classic Italian dish and in northern Italy, Fontina and Parmesan cheeses would be used but obviously I’m giving it a Lincolnshire twist so am substituting the Parmesan with a vintage Lincolnshire Poacher and the Fontina for the Cote Hill Yellow which, with its creamy texture should add a wonderfully velvety texture, to the final dish. The real trick to this, however, is making a rich Béchamel sauce. If you’re patient with this and also ensure that you drain the pasta when it’s still slightly undercooked you will create a mac ‘n’ cheese worthy of a chilly autumn evening…
• To make the Béchamel sauce, heat the milk until hot but not boiling, then remove from the heat.
• In another saucepan, melt the butter, then remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Put the pan back on a gentle heat and cook the flour, stirring continuously for about a minute.
• Take the pan off the heat again and add a little of the milk, continuing to stir. Adding the milk slowly and stirring like this will ensure no lumps form. Continue to add the milk a little at a time until it is all incorporated, then return the pan to the heat and cook until the sauce comes to the boil, season and gently cook for a few minutes more.
• Now’s the stage that you’re going to turn this from a regular Béchamel into an incredible velvety sauce by placing the pan into a larger pan of boiling water, creating a bain-marie and leaving the sauce to cook very, very gently for 30 minutes.
• Add the cheeses and stir.
• Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente and then drain thoroughly.
• Heat the oven to 180C.
• Take a shallow baking dish and spread a little of the cheesy sauce on the bottom, then add the pasta and finally pour over the rest of the sauce. Bake for 30 minutes until the pasta at the top begins to brown.
Eat and of course, enjoy!
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