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caraway mac and cheese | mac and gubta mtumarta

Ingredients

Butter for greasing the casserole
1 pound tubular pasta (chiocciole, also known as pipe rigate, is pictured here, but you could use elbow macaroni, cavatappi, or any other tubular noodle)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
5 ounces chopped or crumbled minouri (or another creamy, crumbly, mild cheese, like feta, ricotta, or fresh goat cheese)
10 ounces grated fontina (or a stringy melting cheese, like non-fresh mozzarella or monterey jack)
5 ounces grated parmesan (or another sharp, dry, salty cheese, like pecorino romano)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste (if you’re substituting cheeses, adjust the salt as necessary)
Black pepper to taste (about 10 grinds)
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds *
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
3 cups small-diced cubes of seeded rye
The greens of 1 or 2 green onions, sliced thinly (about 1 to 3 tablespoons, to taste)

Instructions

  1. Bring at least 2 quarts of salted water to a boil, and grate the cheeses while you wait.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  3. Butter a 9 x 13 inch casserole (or another similar oven-proof container, such as a large cast iron dutch oven, capable of holding 3 quarts).
  4. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, pulling it off the heat 1 or 2 minutes shy of al dente. It should be unpleasantly al dente, chewy with a very slightly stale center. Once it’s done, strain it and add it back to the stock pot.
  5. While the pasta is cooking (or immediately after), melt the 1/2 stick of butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it has melted, let it bubble for about 1 to 2 minutes, until the bubbling starts to get a little quieter, and then add the flour and whisk together immediately. Continue to whisk for about 3 minutes, until the mixture turns a little golden.
  6. Add the milk while whisking everything together. Raise the heat to medium-high and continue to whisk. Once it comes to a simmer and thickens, remove from heat.
  7. Whisk the minouri into the milk, breaking it up with your whisk against the side of the pan (it’s okay if it still looks a little lumpy).
  8. Add the fontina, parmesan, egg, salt, pepper, and caraway seeds to the warm milk and stir together to combine.
  9. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and stir until it’s very evenly combined.
  10. Spoon the mac and cheese into the buttered casserole. Smooth it out a little with the back of a spoon.
  11. Evenly drizzle the 2 tablespoons melted butter over the rye cubes and toss together to coat. Sprinkle the bread cubes over the mac and cheese.
  12. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until it’s golden brown and cooked through.
  13. Garnish with green onions.

Notes

* Caraway is usually easy to find in the spice section of the supermarket (but it’s not flying off the shelves, so check the expiration date). I usually use 1 1/2 teaspoons of caraway, but some people prefer a stronger flavor, so adjust the seasoning to your preference. The amount you’ll add also depends on the flavor of your rye bread. Some rye breads are made with just a few caraway seeds sprinkled on top, while some have a ton of caraway flavor. I once made this with a very subtly flavored seeded rye, and had to use 2 full teaspoons of seeds. Use your own judgment, based on your own preference and your ingredients.