“Is there a grown-up person anywhere who cannot remember some shameful, almost insane act of greediness of his childhood?” This is a rhetorical question posed by M.F.K. Fisher. It makes me think of macaroni and cheese. There is almost nothing left to say about this so-called “comfort food” because there are so many recipes for it in the world (including this good one), and because it is so beloved. I have never written about macaroni and cheese in my life as a food writer, on purpose. Here goes: As a very little child, I once consumed an entire box of the Kraft variety all by myself. Gross, no? Well, now you know. It took me years to even consider the homemade variety, so inured was I to the charms of the box. At last, I have alighted on a recipe that I like, one that doesn’t require making a bechamel sauce, which takes too long, or the application of breadcrumbs, which I happen not to like. I shall speak of this no more, so here it is.
This is an unusual recipe for macaroni and cheese for a couple of reasons: You don’t cook the elbows first, and it calls for ricotta cheese. That said, it is fast, easy, and delicious. It is adapted from a recipe that appeared in the New York Times on January 4, 2006.
Shameful Macaroni and Cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound macaroni, uncooked
Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9-inch baking pan.
In a blender, puree ricotta cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. In a large bowl, combine grated cheese, milk mixture, and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover pan, stir gently. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.