Gramma's is traditional. It is very cheesey and topped with the perfect crust of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Robert's invoves a creamy bechamel sauce and pancetta. Robert is a chef hence the bechamel and fancy cured meat. I have not eaten that dish for over four years and I still crave it. Solstice is a bar that Chris and I frequented just down the street from our apartment in SF. Their version uses a creamy blue cheese sauce and in they top it with finely diced green apple. Ooh, aah!
Given my affinity for pasta and melted cheese, I have tried my hand at this dish many times. This month's issue of Saveur highlights this comfort food and last night, I was inspired once again.
Although I really wanted to test out their recipe for lobster macaroni and cheese, the frugal shopper in me decided to use up the two links of fresh chorizo and half block of cheddar I had left over in the fridge. Of course, I did shop for a few extras that I hoped would enhance this version.
At the market I found watercress. I haven't had it in quite a while so I put that in the basket along with a head of green leaf lettuce for a salad. I also picked up one red repper and some smoked cheddar cheese to add to the pasta.
When I got home I put my pasta on to boil. I decided to break up the links of chorizo and sautee them more like ground meat to be tossed in with the macaroni. I put the red pepper in the oven on broil so that the skin would blister and char. My cheesey sauce started with a basic white sauce; a little butter, flour and whole milk cooked carefully until thick and creamy. Then I added grated cheddar and smoked cheddar. The cheese melted into that sauce and the whole thing was smoky and rich, and really pretty tasty. I chopped the roasted red pepper and then combined it with the sauce, the meat and the pasta. It all went into a baking dish topped with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese to finish in the oven.
So far, this is my favorite version of all of my own versions to date. It was smoky, a little spicy, and super cheesey. I tossed the watercress and green leaf with a little mint and a red wine and dijon vinaigrette. It was fresh and light and went well with the pasta.
Chris thought it needed more salt... I don't think so;)