Monday, August 23, 2010

Creamy Asiago Noodles


 Last week, I had one of those classic office-debates with the ladies: boxed vs. homemade mac & cheese. Funny enough, despite all my cooking skills, I can (very guiltily) admit that I prefer neon orange macaroni and cheese from a box. So does my husband. One thing the ladies could agree on in our little debate, is that mac & cheese preference has a lot to do with childhood experiences.

When I was young, I hated homemade mac & cheese. I actually didn't like many things at all. I think I survived for at least a year on bologna cold-cuts and buttered pasta elbows. I was one of those kids who assumed I didn't like most things, and wouldn't try them.  One bad mac & cheese tasting, and I turned my cheek on it forever for a powdered mix. I remember having dinner at a friend's house, when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old, and thinking how incredibly fancy it was that her mom threw chunks of hot dog in with the box mix mac. To me, this was the ideal mac & cheese.

Now older and wiser, I am a bit more open minded. I revisit old food enemies and try to mold them to my liking. I haven't perfected homemade mac & cheese, but the process has taught me how to make various kinds of creamy cheese sauce. Friday night, I decided to dress some egg noodles in cheese sauce to go with some chicken-apple sausages. On the plate together, they reminded me of the hot dog mac & cheese. So simple, yet just a little bit fancier than usual.

I used mild flavored Asiago and Parmigiano in the sauce, thinking it would pair well with the sausage. I threw in tomatoes for color and texture, but I think it would have been awesome with green apple chunks. Italian sausage or chicken meatballs probably would have gone better with this tomato-topped version. Anywho, it was pretty wonderful, and the leftovers made a nice lunch too!

Creamy Asiago Noodles
4 servings (as a side dish)
10-15 minutes

Broad Egg Noodles (about 2-3 C dry)
1 T Butter 
1 T Flour
1 C Milk
3/4 C Shredded Asiago
1/4 C Shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Fresh whole Nutmeg, optional (do not substitute with ground nutmeg)
Salt, Pepper, Paprika
Chopped Tomatoes, lightly salted (or Green Apple)

1.  Bring water to a boil for egg noodles. Add egg noodles to boiling water and boil for 7-8 minutes.

2. In another saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Sprinkle in an equal amount of flour and stir until it dissolves together (to form a roux). 

3. Stir in (or whisk) milk and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently to avoid burning it down.

4. Add cheeses and stir frequently until melted, about 5 minutes. 

5. Take a fresh piece of nutmeg and grate it on a microplane into the pan. Just 3-5 times across the microplane should be plenty - maybe just 1/16 of a teaspoon at best.

6. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a small sprinkle of paprika. 

7. Drain the noodles and return them to their pot (no heat). Toss in the tomatoes and cheese sauce and mix together.

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