I write this during one of my last nights at home in Chicago, but as you, gentle reader (and survivor of an epic storm last weekend—congratulations, and stay warm), read this article, I will have landed in Geneva to begin my study abroad program. Frenzied packing and last-minute shopping filled my weekend in the ’burbs of Chicago, while you all were cozy and bundled up against the all-mighty storm that was wrought upon you. With such little time left in the States, and with the promise of the best chocolate and wine ahead, I have been craving what any red-blooded American-about-to-turn-ex-pat would: good ol’ childhood-memory-inducing mac and cheese.
Let it be known this is the first time I have called myself anything close to patriotic.
As I am wont to do, I looked up about 10 recipes online and half-followed half of them, cutting some dairy, adding miso for that umami flavor, and roasting some vegetables (Who actually boils vegetables anymore? Here’s looking at you, Grandma). I even added my own favorite cheese—aged Gouda. I’m not even trying to quote “She’s the Man;” it’s actually my favorite cheese.
The patchwork recipe I ultimately came up with can also be made vegan! Substitute non-dairy counterparts for the cheese and the milk and vegan margarine for the butter.
I apologize in advance, but some of the amounts are estimates. I made this for one and am scaling up and didn’t write down the amounts I used. However, it’s easy to use more pasta and less cauliflower, add more milk to make the sauce more liquid-y, or add more cheese to make the sauce more, well, cheesy.
So here it is: Issy’s very own, last-meal-in-the-U.S., made-on-the-fly, Baked Cauliflower and Parsnip and Spinach Mac and Six Kinds of Cheeses.
1 head large cauliflower, chopped into pasta-sized chunks
2/3 medium size parsnips, peeled and cut into pasta-sized chunks
1/2 onion, sliced
1 serving cut pasta (in other words, no noodles. i used whole wheat fusilli)
1 cup spinach, cut into 1-inch strips
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (soy or dairy. the thicker the milk, the richer the sauce)
1 cup of shredded cheese of choice, i recommend any 3- or 5- cheese mix. (you can also add a tablespoon of cream cheese ifyou want it even creamier)
2 tbsp. miso dissolved into 1/2 cup lefover pasta water
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper (throw in some sriracha sauce if you like it even hotter)
1. Boil some water and a generous pinch of salt, and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Steam or boil the vegetables for five minutes, just to cook them a bit before roasting them. Start cooking the pasta in the water, per instructions on the box. Keep pasta al dente, since it will cook more in the oven—run the pasta under cool water to slow cooking.
3. Line roasting pan with foil, toss vegetables in spices, and put into the oven for 15-20 minutes.
4. Melt butter in small saucepan, and then add the flour. Let boil gently, and cook, stirring constantly, for about two minutes.
5. Add the milk and miso. Don’t let it boil, but keep it hot. Slowly add the cheese, letting it melt consistently. Add more cheese or water until it reaches the desired consistency. Add a pinch of cayenne and/or sriracha if you like it spicy.
6. Once the cheese has melted, the vegetables have roasted, and the pasta has cooked, mix all three together with the cut spinach. Divide into ramekins or baking pans, sprinkle bread crumbs and more cheese)on top, and place in the oven for 10-20 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your crust.
Eat and enjoy!