Cheesy Skillet Gnocchi

Gnocchi is essentially mashed potato-based pasta dough. It’s no wonder I’m obsessed with it.

Can I claim expert execution every time I roll that dough out? Nope! Not by a long shot. But it still tastes, and looks, like gnocchi every time.

My secret? This general rule of thumb – 1 medium-sized potato to 1 / 3 cup flour. It leaves ample room for error, all while helping avoid the consequences of dumplings that fall apart in the boiling water, or too-rigid dough.

And once you’ve made it a few times, you’ll have a better feel for the potato to flour to egg to water ratio. Or at least you’ll know when you completely botched the whole thing. Hopefully.

Of the dishes I cook, I make macaroni and cheese most often. In all shapes, sizes, and colors. If there ever was an expert – and I’d be hesitant to make this claim if it weren’t true – I might be it. Besides professional chefs. They actually know what they’re doing.

Here are some tips & tricks I’ve teased out –

  • Too much flour in the roux leads to a cakey sauce, and poor texture if you’re reheating leftovers.
  • More moisture is key – including pasta water, milk, cream, or half and half.
  • For better or for worse, pricey, aged Gruyere and cheddar cheeses are the best cheeses to use as a base. Ina Garten is all about this combo, and for good reason. It’s because she’s right. Use goat, blue, or other cheeses as accent cheeses. If you’re going with a homier stovetop mac, it’s not a bad idea to throw Velveeta in the mix. If you’re wondering how restaurants manage to serve you mac & cheese in that impossibly gooey & silky sauce, I’d bet my life that Velveeta had something to do with it.
  • If you’re baking your mac, you need to undercook the pasta by at least 2 to 3 minutes, beyond just the time it takes to boil the pasta to al dente consistency. A hard-biting noodle should be a feature of every macaroni and cheese you serve.
  • Add a splash of neutral cooking oil into your cheese mixture. Trust me.

I wanted this gnocchi to encapsulate the culmination of these mac & cheese lessons learned. The sauce came out as saucy as sauces get – rich, thick, over-the-top.

Reheated in a microwave, it tasted like the first bite out of the oven. I’m far from having my macaroni and cheese deemed perfect by the gods, but these pointers have well along the way.

What are some of your go-to tricks for the perfect mac? Any mac & cheese recipes you swear by?

I N G R E D I E N T S

F o r  t h e  G n o c c h i

  • 6 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & quartered (approximately 2 pounds)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • Large pinch of salt
  • Flour, as needed
  • Water, as needed

F o r  t h e  C h e e s e  S a u c e

  • 3 cups sharp, aged cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 3 / 4 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

F o r  t h e  T o p p i n g

  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Combine with the panko breadcrumbs and garlic powder in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Boil a large pot of salted water. Add the potatoes, and cook until fork tender. Strain. Turn the potatoes into a mashed consistency using either a hand mill or a hand mixer (a hand mill is better).
  4. On a floured, hard surface, lightly combine the mashed potatoes, flour, salt until uniform throughout. Create a well in the middle of the dough and add the egg. Continue to fold the dough until the egg is fully incorporated, and the dough is a light yellow color. The dough should be sticky, but should not stick to your hands. If it is too dry to combine, or too sticky to handle, add small amounts or water or flour until it reaches the right consistency.
  5. Form the dough into a small disk, cover in plastic wrap, and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, melt the 3 / 4 stick of butter in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the flour. Whisk for a couple minutes, until the flour mixture is bubbling. Add the milk, the salt, pepper, nutmeg and vegetable oil. Allow to thicken on medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes. The mixture should coat a wooden spoon at this phase. Once thickened, add the cheeses. Stir to combine. Remove from the heat until ready to add the gnocchi.
  7. After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out the dough to 1 inch thickness. Cut the dough into long strips. Form a long tubular piece of dough from each strip, using your hands to stretch and roll the dough back and forth. Once the dough reaches about 1 inch in diameter, cut the strips into 1 inch pieces. Place the gnocchi on a plate, and sprinkle with flour.
  8. Boil a pot of salted water. Put the gnocchi in the water a dozen or so pieces at a time. Once the gnocchi rise to the surface, they are done. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place into the cheese mixture. It’s encouraged for some of the cooking liquid to make its way into the cheese sauce as you’re transferring the gnocchi. Stir until the gnocchi are incorporated into the cheese sauce.
  9. Pour the gnocchi into a baking pan or cast iron skillet, and top evenly with the panko mixture.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the panko is browned and the cheese is bubbling. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sausage Gravy Macaroni & Cheese

I knew sausage gravy and macaroni and cheese would be fast friends. They both start out the same way, but with different fats. You have the roux that serves as the base for the mac, which is identical to the base of your average sausage gravy. The only difference being one starts with sausage drippings instead of butter.

What makes this macaroni and cheese stand out, though, is a whole lot of garlic powder. I strongly believe garlic powder is an unsung hero in the cooking world. Not in the world of everyday cooks like me – home cooks know it well. You’ll see it in every one of those one-sheet pan dinners, casseroles, or crockpot meals.

In my limited exposure to the upper echelons of the culinary world, I can’t remember one instance where a chef added garlic powder to a dish and owned it. At some level it’s understandable. Fresh garlic is a flavor powerhouse. Why use the tacky, outdated powdered stuff?

But when I add garlic powder, there’s an added yumminess, umami, whatever that magical flavor is. I don’t get that when I add freshly minced garlic. In some dishes, like casseroles, the fresh garlic flavor gets lost. Garlic powder does a better job of permeating the entire dish, and the garlic flavor is tastier, somehow.

All things considered, garlic, is garlic, is garlic – fresh is better in some dishes, while I’ll exclusively use powdered garlic in others.

I saw a recipe for homemade garlic powder on Serious Eats – this is my next frontier. With this mac you’re going to get a whopping sausage, cheese and garlickly bite, and you have good, old, been-there-done-that garlic powder to thank for it. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1 box short pasta, of your choosing
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 6 Kraft American Cheese singles
  • 1 quart whole milk, scalded
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 / 4 lb. sausage of your choosing, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons garlic powder

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Brown the sausage, breaking it down into smaller pieces in a large pot on medium heat until the meat is cooked through, and a bit crispy in places. Add the flour and butter, and cook, stirring until the flour is fully dissolved into the meat, and the butter is melted.
  3. At this point, add the scalded milk, keeping the heat on medium. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce begins to thicken.
  4. In the meantime, heat a pot of salted water until boiling. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package instructions. Strain and set aside.
  5. Once the sauce coats a spoon, add the cheeses and stir until completely incorporated. Add the pasta, salt, pepper and garlic powder and stir to combine.
  6. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a casserole dish, and bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling hot, and the top is browned.

 

Stovetop Mustard Macaroni & Cheese

I put mustard in dishes that should not have mustard in them.  Mustard powder is great, but the real-deal condiment adds a great zing to just about everything, in my experience.

Taco meat? Add mustard. Tuna salad sandwiches? Let’s add some mustard. Hummus? Mustard. Clam chowder? Why not – where’s the mustard.

Did anyone else eat cheese and mustard sandwiches growing up? I never really missed the ham or turkey.  I was after that sharp cheddar cheese and French’s Yellow Mustard combo, with so much mustard it would ooze out the edges and seep through the holes in the bread if you pressed down on the sandwich.

The addition of yellow mustard and Dijon mustard to your typical tabletop mac and cheese did not disappoint – and it gave me validation to continue with my bizarre food experiments. I had been adding mustard powder to most of my stovetop macs, but the condiment adds a “what did you put in this?” mystery flavor that’s difficult to put your finger on.

Stovetop mac, if you haven’t made it before, can and should be a staple food in your household. Yes, even if you are kid-less. Admit that you want it – it’s OK, we all do.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is perfect in every way an iconic American staple food can be perfect. But you’re getting so much extra oomph mixing whatever yummy cheese you have on-hand in your fridge to your favorite short pasta, adding some milk or cream, and seasoning the gooey mixture to your heart’s content. Just make sure you’re adding some of the processed stuff – Kraft American Cheese Singles or Velveeta – I will arrest you if you don’t.

Mike Myers, featured in a 1992 blockbuster as the doofus Wayne in Wayne’s World, had his priorities straight when he asked:

“Pardon me sir – do you have any Grey Poupon?”

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 box short pasta
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, of your choosing
  • 10 Kraft American Cheese Singles
  • 3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard, of your choosing
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, of your choosing
  • 3 / 4 cup half & half
  • 1 cup reserved cooking liquid from the pasta
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Boil a pot of water, cooking the pasta al dente according to package instructions. Reserve a cup of the cooking liquid before straining.
  2. In the same pot, add the butter, half & half, both mustards, salt and pepper. Immediately return the pasta to the pot.
  3. With the pot on low heat, add the cheeses and stir until the cheese and butter melts completely. Begin to stir in the cooking liquid in small pours until the mixture reaches desired consistency. The pasta will dry out over time, so if you’re going for seconds you may want to add more of the cooking liquid to “re-creamify” it.
  4. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

La Tur-rific Macaroni & Cheese

There’s a cheese called La Tur that you should know about. Full disclosure – it is one of those smelly and bloomy kinds.

The small, circular crottin is derived from sheep’s, cow’s and goat’s milk and has a semi-soft center, oozing outer rim that’s enclosed in a wrinkled rind.

At room temperature, you slice into it and the cheese comes pouring out of its mold. Like slightly thickened cream.

If this appeals to you, keep reading.

Luckily you can almost always find it at Whole Foods, and more often than not I have luck at specialty cheese shops or gourmet markets.

Because I want to give you a reason to go out and buy this cheese, I combined two of my favorite foods, one of which is ubiquitously loved, probably by you too. So you have no excuse. Let me just acknowledge out of the gate – saying macaroni and cheese is your favorite food doesn’t make you unique.

It’s like, no shit, we all do.

I just winged it with this dish, and it turned out great. How couldn’t it though? To amplify the funkier flavor I replaced cow’s milk for goat’s milk, and it took it to another level.

We should rethink macaroni and cheese entirely, because there is so much you can do with it– why don’t we try swapping out American or cheddar for the good stuff we like to eat on its own? Not to say American processed cheese product does not have its own home in my heart. Sometimes, only good old Velveeta will do.

Meltability and retaining moisture in the oven have something to do with why some cheeses are better than others, but try this dish with La Tur (or something you’re partial toward that’s a little out of left field), mix it with some melty cheese go-to’s, and you’ll regret not doing it earlier.

Carbs and cheese, people. Divinity in food form. Hallelujah.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This makes enough for several people, probably 4 to 6 – but again, how bad could leftovers be? Or just cut the recipe in half. Instead of reheating leftovers in the microwave, try reheating in a toaster oven. It’ll revive more of that crispy on the top / bubbly on the inside texture.

  • 1 lb dried short pasta of your choosing
  • 1  La Tur crotin, crumbled
  • 4 cups high-quality aged cheddar or another high-quality cheese, or a combination of cheeses, grated (I used 2 cups aged Cabot cheddar I had in my fridge and 2 cups good-quality Gruyere)
  • 1 quart goat’s milk
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons salt, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 tablespoons butter (salted or unsalted), plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 / 4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and finely minced
  • 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Butter a 12 in. by 9 in. casserole dish, although a smaller casserole dish will work as well (i.e. a 9 in. circular casserole dish). You could even split it evenly amongst smaller gratin dishes for a fancier presentation, if you wanted.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of salt to flavor the water.
  3. Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter and add the 1 /4 cup of flour in a separate heavy-bottomed large pot, stirring constantly with a whisk on medium heat until lightly browned to remove some of the raw flour taste.
  4. In the meantime, in a small pan, warm the goat’s milk on medium-high heat until just before simmering, when there are small bubbles on the sides of the pot. Do not boil.
  5. Cook the pasta until al dente or slightly before al dente if you prefer your pasta to have even more of a bite. That’s how I like it. It will cook more in the oven.
  6. Once the roux has been whisked for a few minutes, add the quart of the warmed goat’s milk, stirring constantly until no lumps of flour remain. If you’ve warmed the goat’s milk enough, the mixture should start to thicken relatively quickly. Keep stirring and turn the heat up to medium high if need be to speed up the thickening process. You’ll want to get to a consistency where the mixture lightly coats a spoon.
  7. Off the heat, add the grated cheeses, the nutmeg, the minced thyme, the 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 / 2 teaspoon of pepper.
  8. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture. If you can time the pasta so that it goes straight from the cooking water into the cheese mixture, it will be that much better. Taste for seasonings once combined, making sure it has enough salt.
  9. Combine the 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1 / 2 cup panko breadcrumbs. Evenly top the dish with the buttered panko crumbs.
  10. Place the casserole dish on a larger baking sheet, covered with foil to eliminate the need for clean-up. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the edges of the casserole are browned and the dish is bubbling hot.