I grew up eating Mac and Cheese. Some of the earliest memories I have were of making Kraft Dinner (that’s what prepackaged macaroni and cheese is called in Canada.) In fact the first photo of me cooking was when I was about three or four and I was stirring a pot of elbow noodles fresh out of the box. It was the the dawn of the industrial food era and Kraft Dinner was king. We as consumers were promised a healthy, real meal in minutes…and I ate it by the box-full! Mac and cheese is THE comfort food.
So how do you pay tribute to comfort food’s finest hour, yet make it your own, contextualizing it to a time a place with real ingredients that actually can be a healthy indulgence?
How does one make mac and cheese in Greece? Two problems exist. What cheese and which noodles do I use? Elbow macaroni and cheddar are virtually impossible to find. I thought about what makes mac and cheese so good i.e. flavour and texture profile, and formulated a strategy of how I could improve on them with local Greek products. I believe the recipe that follows stays true to the memory that is KD, while still being sourced from Greek products.
What you need:
- 500g Kofto. Kofto is a short straight macaroni used here in Greece for stews and soups. Part of the magic of mac and cheese is the way the cheesy sauce sticks to and in the noodles. Kofto are robust enough to add texture and are small enough to not get in the way of the cheese.
- 250g Grated Graviera from Mytilene. Graviera is a wonderful semisoft cheese that is great for melting. This cheese provides the backbone to the sauce. If you want to try this at home you could substitute Swiss.
- 250g Grated Kefalotiri from Kefalonia. Kefalotiri is a robust, tangy and salty hard cheese. This cheese provides the mouthwatering (and sodium) element to the dish. You could substitute a good Romano if you want.
- 100g Crumbled Feta. Tangy and creamy this is added at the end for a richer (as if that could be possible) sauce. Sorry there are no substitutes here.
- 70g salted butter
- 1 cup of milk
- 1/2 tsp white pepper (this is essential)
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (this gives colour and an exotic smoky taste)
How it’s done:
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
- Shut off the heat and melt the butter, add the milk…just like a regular mac and cheese.
- Stir in the Graviera, Kefalotiri, pepper and paprika stir until melted. (turn heat on to low if you need more heat to melt the cheese)
- Stir in the feta and serve.