This has to be my favourite comfort food dish of all time. Not the most exciting I know but with the addition of garlic spinach, nutmeg & your favourite three cheeses this really is heaven. We had our friends Tim & Tony for dinner on Monday night which is their only night off from the restaurant so the last thing they want is a posh dinner, and also Tim is the fussiest person in the world when it comes to food. The Menu had to be easy, delicious, comforting, and prepared ahead. There is no way I am going to stand around cooking while everyone else is chatting & enjoying themselves and besides our dining table is in the kitchen and I can’t handle people seeing the mess… So the menu was:
Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup with Garlic & Parmesan Bread
Macaroni Cheese with Three Cheeses & Garlic Spinach
Hot Chocolate Melting Centre Pudding with Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
All three of theses dishes are easy to make and real crowd pleasers, the perfect combination of comfort and joy !! I’ll start with the macaroni cheese…
Macaroni Cheese with Garlic Spinach Recipe
Serves 4 Vegetarian
500gr dried macaroni (I used penne rigate because I prefer it)
1 bag fresh spinach (about 300 gr) any tough stems removed
1 tbsp butter & a little olive oil(to cook spinach)
2 or 3 cloves garlic chopped finely
50 gr butter (Plus extra for buttering dish & for the top)
50 gr flour
250 ml milk (I use goats milk) you may need more
freshly grated nutmeg about 1/2 tsp
a pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)
salt & pepper
150gr grated cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar & parmesan) you can use whatever your favourite cheeses are.
1 tomato thinly sliced
about 25 gr breadcrumbs & extra grated parmeasan for the top
Put the butter, olive oil & garlic in a large pan with a lid and cook on a med heat for 1 – 2 mins until the garlic is soft (not browned). Then add the spinach stir a little & put on the lid for a minute. Stir again and replace the lid. Repeat until the spinach has wilted, add salt & pepper, turn off the heat & put the lid back on.
Meanwhile cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 3 minutes less than the packet says beacause it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and set aside.
Melt the 50gr butter in a saucepan over a med heat then dump in the flour, stir & cook for 1 minute. Add the milk bit by bit stirring to incorporate each time until you have added it all and you have a smooth white sauce the consistency of thick cream. You may need to add more milk. Add the nutmeg, chilli flakes if using & salt & pepper, stir to combine. Take the pan off the heat and add the cheeses one by one stirring to melt.
In a large bowl combine the pasta with the cheese sauce, stirring to coat evenly then add the wilted spinach and garlic with slotted spoon (you don’t want the green water that has come out of the spinach), then stir to incorporate the spinach. Taste for seasoning you may need more salt, pepper & nutmeg.
Butter a large baking dish then sprinkle it with breadcrumbs. (It stops it sticking and creates a base). Pour the pasta into the dish making sure it’s even. Top with the sliced tomato,sprinkle with breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and dot with a little butter.
If you are making this ahead, cover it and put it in the fridge until you need it. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and cook for 35 mins until browned. If you are cooking it straight away (as it is still warm )you will only need to cook it for about 20 mins until browned or even put it under the grill for 10 – 15 mins.
The recipe for Hot Chocolate Melting Centre Puddings follows….