The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge

Having read about The Cheeselover’s The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge on Hollow Legs and One Million Gold Stars last week, I thought it was only right to give the competition my two-pennies worth.

When trying to think of my take on it, I was torn between a purist approach, focussing on making the sauce as cheesey and smooth as possible, and a more creative approach with a slight concern that running away with ideas could detract from the true essence of macoroni cheese.

Having decided that the key elements of the dish are strong cheese flavour (obviously) and a dense, spoonable consistency, I decided it was OK to vary the ingredients (within reason) and came up with this blue cheese and broccoli version.

The strong cheese and fresh broccoli create a flavoursome dish with more depth than a standard cheddar version. I know that sticking broccoli in it could be quite a dramatic deviation from the classic dish, but chopping the broccoli finely and boiling it the pasta allows it to merge nicely into the sauce, the finished dish hinting more to a cheese and broccoli soup than to a vegetable pasta bake. Cheesiness: Check. Spoonable stodge: check.

For the cheese I used a combination of gorgonzola, for creaminess, and that delicious white-wine after taste that I always think it has, and stilton for a good strong punch of cheesiness. Because the combination of cheeses is so rich, I made sure my bechemel base was quite light (just a small amount of butter and flour) and let the cheese do the thickening a la fondue.

I added fragrant rosemary to the butter when making the sauce which really enhanced the flavour of the cheese, and I couldn’t resist adding a layer of breadcrumbs and parmesan for a crisp, cheesy topping.

In an especially controversial move, given the name of the challenge, I actually ended up using fresh Strozzapreti pasta instead of Macaroni. When I saw it in the fresh pasta section at the supermarket, I was instantly reminded of an Italian sausage and sage butter Cavatelli dish I ate at Frankies Spuntino in New York last year, and have been hankering for ever since, and just had to buy it. The shape of the pasta was just right for dish, and the slightly twisted shape actually took on the sauce better than Macaroni proper might have. Real Macaroni, or indeed Cavatelli would work just as well in this dish if you didn’t have/fancy Strozzapreti.

But enough of my cheese and pasta musings, here is my blue cheese and broccoli contribution to The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

400g of fresh Strozzapreti (or a short, tubular pasta of your choice)

1 small head of broccoli

100g gorgonzola

100g stilton

100g parmesan

1 spring of rosemary, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of butter

1 tablespoon of plain flour

400mls of milk (skimmed/semi is good for lightness)

1 slice of bread, dried in the oven at 200c for 10mins



Bring a pan of slightly salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Finely chop the broccoli and add 3mins before pasta is cooked. Drain and return to the pan.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the finely chopped rosemary. Cook for 2mins. Add the flour and stir into a paste. Cook for 1min before whisking in the milk.

Gradually bring to the boil, stirring constantly to thicken sauce. At this stage it will still be relatively runny as the cheese will thicken further.

Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and crumble in the gorgonzola and stilton. Stir to melt into a thick sauce.

Season the sauce with a little salt and plenty of pepper and stir into the cooked pasta. Transfer to a ceramic oven dish.

Bash the bread into crumbs and grate in the parmesan. Sprinkle cheese/crumb topping over the cheesey pasta.

Bake in the oven at 200C/Gas Mark 5 for 30mins until the topping is golden.

Divide into bowls and serve immediately.


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5 Responses to “The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese Challenge”

  1. Lizzie Says:

    Excellent – I like a bit of veg in my macaroni cheese, it convinces me it’s actually healthy.

  2. ginandcrumpets Says:

    Broccoli in macaroni cheese almost makes it healthy, but not quite. Looks delicious.

  3. | Food Diaries: Blue Cheese, Broccolli and Mushroom Macaroni Says:

    […] After having Darika, Libby, Kate and Gemma over for a Twilight movie night last night, Jim and I were left with a lot of leftover cheese. I guess I went a bit overboard when shopping earlier in the day. Rather than smearing the stilton, boursin and brie on crusty bread with slivers of smoked salmon like we normally would, I took inspiration from the amazing food blogger Laura Silver and made a gourmet macaroni cheese. […]

  4. Don’t mess around with macaroni « Feast on Scraps Says:

    […] Mac’n'Cheese Challenge with a tarted up version of the classic dish made with blue cheese and broccoli. Admittedly, it was pretty tasty, but I did wonder if it’s such a good idea to mess around […]

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