This quick version of macaroni and cheese is always a crowd pleaser thanks to the creamy, tangy sauce and crispy topping. Since it’s baked in the same pan the sauce is made in, clean-up is quick and easy, too. To serve this dish in individual gratin dishes (as pictured) divide the pasta mixture among 4 (2-cup/16 fl. oz./500-ml) gratin dishes. Top with the bread crumbs and bake for 15 minutes. For extra crispy bread crumbs, set the baking dishes under the broiler for 30 seconds at the end of the baking time.
Macaroni and Cheese with Peas and Crisp Bread Crumbs
- 2 1/4 oz. (65 g) piece of crusty bread or bread slices, torn into pieces (about 2 cups)
- 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups (24 fl. oz. /750 ml) reduced-fat milk
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
- 3/4 lb. (375 g) medium shell-shaped pasta
- 1 cup (6 oz./190 g) fresh or thawed frozen English peas
- 1 1/2 cups (6 oz./185 g) grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 pinches cayenne pepper
1. In a food processor, pulse the bread until fine crumbs form. Add the Parmesan and oil and pulse a few times to combine; set aside.
2. Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, in an ovenproof saucepan, whisk together the flour, mustard and 3/4 tsp. salt. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) of the milk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk and add the bay leaf and garlic. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking frequently, until the sauce is thickened and bubbly, 5 minutes. Keep warm over low heat.
4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Add the peas during the last 4 minutes if using fresh peas, or during the last minute of cooking if using thawed frozen peas. Drain the pasta and peas.
5. Remove the garlic and bay leaf from the sauce. Add the cheese to the sauce a handful at a time, whisking until fully melted before adding more. Season with the cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir in the pasta and peas. Sprinkle evenly with the bread crumb mixture. Slide the pan into the oven, and bake until the crumbs are golden and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.
Find more simple, healthy meals for every night of the week in our book Weeknight Vegetarian, by Ivy Manning.