There's nothing quite as much fun as cooking with a good friend. All it takes is a simple recipe, a nice bottle of wine and you have the perfect evening. Tonight, my friend Catherine and I went for the purest form of comfort food--macaroni and cheese. Catherine and I have been friends since high school and even though we're a little bit different, our mutual love of food has always and continues to bring us together.
Our evening began with the requisite glass(es) of wine, cheese and some light girl talk. When cooking with friends, it's best to cook something that allows you to spend more time talking and less time in the kitchen. Of course, our relaxing girl's night in was not entirely without incident. In classic style, I managed to decorate my white shorts with my glass of Zinfandel, briefly sending me in a mild state of panic. Catherine, domestic goddess that she is, swooped in and saved my shorts from what seemed a certain death by red wine.
With my shorts saved and nerves calmed, it was time to sit down and eat. We loaded our plates up with rich, creamy macaroni and cheese and a light, crisp spinach salad with pears and crispy bacon. It was simple, satisfying and the perfect meal to share with an old friend.
Classic Macaroni & Cheese (Adapted from Martha Stewart's Gratinéed Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
2 T unsalted butter
2 T all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 1/3 cups of grated, sharp white cheddar, divided
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 375 ℉. Spray a 10x7x2 ceramic baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cook the pasta for 3 minutes and drain. Warm the milk in a saucepan over medium. In another saucepan, heat the butter over medium until it begins to foam. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute to cook the flour and remove any lumps. Slowly whisk the milk into the butter. Cook and continue to whisk until the sauce has thickened and begins to bubble, 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and 2 cups of cheese to the saucepan. Stir until the cheese has melted completely. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in the pasta and transfer the macaroni to your baking dish. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup of cheddar. Bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Serves 2-4.