October 13th, 2009
It’s all about comfort food here these days. And what’s more comforting than mac-n-cheese?! I know, I know. Mac-n-cheese (along with fish fingers, chicken fingers and other such kid-menu staples) often gets clumped into my short hand for everything that’s wrong with the way that so many American children eat. But you know I’m referring to a steady diet of the processed/boxed/frozen versions… right? Far be it from me to say that these foods (at least homemade versions) are off limits. That would be sad. And, anyway, everything in moderation.
That said, I haven’t made mac-n-cheese in ages. Partly because eating it in moderation is a serious challenge for me, and partly because Isaac has never been a fan. (Yes, I birthed a child who refused macaroni and cheese.) But the other day, I needed some gooey, tangy, cheesy macaroni, be damned my epicurean child. I thought that switching things up with buttermilk might make a difference and, lo and behold, it did! Or perhaps my ChowBaby has simply come to his sense.
Though it’s still a byproduct of cow’s milk, cultured buttermilk is easier to digest than regular cow’s milk (a result of the bacteria added to the milk). That means that protein and calcium can be taken up more easily by the body. It’s a good choice for folks with (mild) milk intolerance and children who have suspected sensitivities to regular cow’s milk, especially in a dish that is so dairy heavy. It’s also lower in fat (helps balance out all that cheese when used in a recipe like this!) and tangy, which gives this mac and cheese a great flavor.
This is a quick and easy recipe that takes little more effort than the boxed stuff and is much more healthy and delicious. And if you have normal children, they’ll love gobbling this up starting as young as 8+ months!
Buttermilk Macaroni & Cheese
adapted from Six Course Dinner
(can be adapted for kids 8+ mos)
16 oz organic orecchiette
4 tbsp organic flour
2 c organic low fat buttermilk
16 oz organic cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp organic paprika
1/2 tsp organic ground mustard
dash organic cayenne (optional, skip for little ones)
4 tbsp organic panko or regular bread crumbs
8 sprigs fresh organic marjoram
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta until al dente. Remove from heat, drain, briefly rinse under cold water, and drain again.
2. While the macaroni is cooking, make a roux: Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour until well combined. Reduce heat and gently cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture just begins to darken.
3. Add buttermilk, 12 oz. of the cheese, paprika, mustard and cayenne. Stir until the cheese is mostly melted and then turn off the heat. Add 7 sprigs of marjoram and continue stirring for five minutes. At this point the cheese should be completely melted and the marjoram should have flavored the sauce. Remove marjoram. Pour sauce over cooked pasta, add salt and pepper and mix well.
4. Put pasta in an oven proof casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil to brown the top, about another 20 minutes or so.
5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped marjoram from the remaining sprig. Serve!