Our senior stylist Jono Fleming revisited his indulgent mac and cheese recipe recently at the farm with friends, and as soon as we spotted it on his Instagram feed we had cravings, too. Three types of cheese, prosciutto and the secret ingredient for a crunchy topping… pretzels. Definitely encore-worthy.
The weather is getting cold, the rain is here to stay, and all you want to do is curl up with a hearty warm meal and a good drop of wine. Don’t even think about a packet mac and cheese. You can definitely do better than powdered food that’s fluorescent orange. Here’s my three tricks for the perfect mac + cheese.
Trick 1: Use real cheese; I chose three European varieties but you can mix and match according to taste as long as the total quantity is the same. I used Spanish Manchego – firm, yet rich and creamy, with a delicate, peppery bite; English Red Leicester to add colour and a slightly earthy, nutty flavour; and Italian Taleggio for an aromatic burst that’s also perfect for melting.
Trick 2: Top with pretzels. This discovery arose by pure chance, when I had no bread (or breadcrumbs) but found a packet of pretzels in the pantry. I bashed them up, sprinkled them on top and they added a salty crunch better than any breadcrumb could.
Trick 3: Finish with maple-candied prosciutto. The prosciutto is less salty than bacon and the sweetness helps to cut through all the strong, cheese flavours. The other thing that cuts through perfectly is, of course, a glass of wine.
Ingredients (serves 8)
3-4 slices prosciutto or pancetta
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 french shallots(or 1 large onion), finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Bunch of thyme
1 cup (250ml) white wine
20g dried porcini or forest mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 10 mins
300ml thickened cream
200g manchego or parmesan, grated
200g red Leicester cheese, grated or crumbled
200g taleggio or camembert
1 cup pretzels, roughly crushed
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Lightly coat the prosciutto in maple syrup in a small bowl, then lay on an oven tray lined with baking paper and place into the heating oven for about 10-15 minutes. The heat will crisp up the prosciutto and the maple syrup will candy. Remove from the oven when it’s nice and crispy and set aside to cool.
In a pot, boil some salted water for the macaroni.
In a large pan, fry off the shallots and garlic on a low heat until soft and clear.
Add the thyme leaves and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the white wine, stir and let the alcohol cook away for about 5 minutes. At this point, you can add in the mushrooms, squeezing out all the excess liquid before you add them to the pan. Then add the cream and stir. Add the manchego and Red Leicester, stirring till they have melted down in the sauce. Set to a low heat and stir occasionally.
Add the macaroni to the salted boiling water and cook according to instructions. Drain the pasta from the water when done and add to the cheese sauce. Mix well, then transfer to a deep ovenproof dish.
Break up the taleggio into chunks and scatter over the macaroni. Grate some extra manchego over the top and then cover the top with the smashed up pretzels.
Put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Meanwhile, chop up the maple prosciutto roughly and when the macaroni is cooked, remove from the oven and sprinkle the maple prosciutto over the top for a finishing touch.