As September rolls on and fall begins to set in, I find myself craving warmer, heartier dinners. The days are still plenty warm here, but the evenings are beginning to cool off a touch and I’m ready to take full advantage of them.
With generous amounts of traditional Indian spices, this macaroni and cheese was made for fall and winter nights. The garam masala, a spice blend I’ve completely fallen in love with over the past couple of years, really comes through and provides the perfect base for the smoky cumin, paprika, and chili powder. Cardamom, though used sparingly, adds a peppery zing, which is the perfect compliment to all that cheese.
I never would’ve thought to add Indian flair to this all-American classic, but let me tell you–it really works. After reading some of the reviews, I increased the spices and make the cheese sauce the night before so all of those glorious, exotic flavors would have time to really blossom. Because of this, the final dish was exceptionally quick and easy to throw together. It was highly spiced like my favorite Indian foods are and highly comforting like all good mac and cheese should be. I’m so glad I found this so early in the season because I know I’ll want to enjoy it over and over again.
Macaroni and Cheese, Indian Style
adapted from Bal Arneson
3 TBSP salted butter, divided
salt, to season pasta water
4 c. elbow macaroni or other desired shape
2 TBSP grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 medium white onion, minced
1 TBSP garam masala
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. chili powder
1 c. quartered cherry tomatoes
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
salt and pepper, to taste
3 c. milk (not skim)
4 1/2 c. grated white cheddar, divided
1/4 c. unseasoned bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9×13 ovenproof dish with 1 TBSP of the butter.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil then generously salt. Add macaroni or other pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and onions and cook until onions are just golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garam masala, cumin, turmeric, paprika, cardamom, chili powder, and tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir and cook mixture 2 minutes more.
4. While onion mixture cooks, warm milk in a small saucepan over low heat.
5. Reduce heat on onion mixture to medium and slowly add the milk. Whisk continually as the mixture thickens. Cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes. Gradually add 3 1/2 c. cheese and whisk until completely melted. (At this point, the cheese sauce can be cooled, then stored in an airtight container and refrigerated up to 24 hours. Bring sauce back to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.)
6. Add cooked macaroni to the prepared baking dish, then pour cheese sauce over the top and stir to coat. Evenly sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake until cheese is bubbling and breadcrumbs are golden, 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Yield: 6-8 servings