Garden Mac & Cheese


I continue to carry on my love affair with butter, cream and cheese, which manifested itself in an adaptation of Melissa Clark’s “Mac and Cheese, a la Jamie Oliver” recipe. I stuck to the recipe, but because we’re still getting peppers in (I’ve eaten more peppers this summer than I have in my life, cumulatively), I added a host of them which kicked up the heat and garden fresh taste.

Our chili pepper plant

Also of note, who knew that a bit of fresh basil would change a dish so dramatically, and for the better? Jamie Oliver has said repeatedly that fresh herbs are the most important part of a recipe, because it transform a regular ole dish. He’s right.

Mac & Cheese, a la Jamie Oliver
From In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark
Ingredients:
Kosher salt
8 ounces elbow or tiny shells pasta (I’ve used farfalle, small spiral pasta, papardelle…)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 strips bacon, cut into thin strips
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
3 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream (I substituted this for 1/4c. plain Greek yogurt and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste (if using cream, use a little more)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnishing

If peppers are in season, I threw in 4 minced chili peppers, 2 rough chopped jalapenos and 2 rough chopped banana peppers. For heat, keep the seeds; no heat, ditch the seeds.

Directions:
In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil. Add the bacon, if using, and the pepper and cook until the bacon is golden brown and crispy, 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir in the peas (and peppers if using) and cook for a minute to defrost. Add the creme fraiche (or Greek yogurt/heavy cream combo) and the basil and cook, stirring constantly, until bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully add the pasta and drizzle with the lemon juice. Stir in the cheese until the pasta is completely coated and the mixture is creamy. Serve garnished with additional cheese, if desired.

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