Desi Mac & Cheese Recipe
You could basically use any type of corkscrew pasta for this recipe - as I feel this particular shape holds up really well in this dish. You could also use your favorite type of melting cheese for this dish or a combination of cheeses. If you love spicy food, feel free to use the Pepper Jack, Jalapeño Jack or Habañero Jack variety of cheeses. I often serve this as a meal with a small side of soup or salad - depending on the time of year & my mood, of course.
MAC & CHEESE – Indian Style
1 lb of pasta (elbow macaroni, rotini, gemelli, cavatappi, fusilli, gomito, …)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled & finely grated
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
½ cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
½ cup green peas (frozen is fine)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp all purpose flour (maida), sifted
3 cups whole milk
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated (or you can use gruyere, fontina, white cheddar…)
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp ground coriander powder
½ tsp garam masala
½ smoked Spanish paprika
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
2 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
½ cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves (plus a little extra for garnish)
a lightly buttered 9x13” baking dish or casserole
In a large pot on high heat, add 4 quarts of water along with a big pinch of salt. Bring the water to a good rolling boil & add the pasta. Then cook the pasta according to the package instructions, but shave off about 2 minutes from the given “al dente” cooking time. Don’t worry, the pasta will finish cooking in the oven. Drain well & then rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Let drain & set aside until needed.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, making sure you have a center rack available for the Mac & Cheese.
In a large deep skillet or wok on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the onions and sauté until translucent & just softened. Then add the garlic & ginger, let cook for just a minute or so before adding the spices (ground cumin powder, ground coriander powder, garam masala, smoked Spanish paprika, salt & pepper). Stir well to combine and let the spices cook for a few minutes before adding the grated carrot & corn kernels. Mix well and let the vegetables cook for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes. Let cook until tomatoes have softened completely. Then remove the entire skillet from heat & set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan on medium heat. When hot, add the butter and allow it to melt. Then slowly add in the flour while whisking briskly. Let the roux (flour & butter mixture) cook for a few minutes and then slowly add the milk while whisking. Next, reduce the heat to low & let cook until the mixture gradually starts to thicken. After the sauce has thickened, slowly add in the grated cheeses & whisk to melt the cheeses evenly into the sauce. Once the sauce has come together, add the tomato/onion/spice mixture – whisk well to combine. Then add the cooked pasta, coconut milk, cilantro leaves, green peas, freshly grated nutmeg & crushed red pepper flakes. Mix well to combine all of the ingredients and then carefully pour the entire contents into the baking dish.
Bake on the center rack of your oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown & bubbly. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and allow too rest for at least 10 minutes. Lastly, garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and serve warm.
You could always top the Mac & Cheese with a little seasoned breadcrumb just before baking of you wish, it adds a lovely texture & wonderful crunch to the dish. Just sauté about ½ cup of Panko breadcrumbs (Japanese breadcrumbs) in a little butter, then add a pinch of smoked Spanish paprika & a little ground cumin powder. Sauté until the breadcrumbs have just lightly browned.
Feel free to add your favorite vegetables such as baby spinach, red bell pepper, cauliflower/broccoli florets, mushrooms, zucchini…
You could also bake the Mac & Cheese in lightly buttered individual ramekins (easy to bake on a baking sheet), it makes for a fun presentation.
My son’s latest favorite way to enjoy this dish is to add a few slices of fresh avocado right on top just before serving.
Instead of adding garam masala you can add your favorite type of masala such as chaat masala, kala masala or even curry powder.
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