Eat your veggies and indulge your inner child with this twist on a classic dish
Story and Photos by Amy Watsky
Adult Mac and Cheese
Some recommendations for sourcing ingredients:
Casa Pasta @ Marina Del Ray Farmers Market or Playa Vista Farmers Market for fresh pasta
Assorted vegetables from Playa Vista Farmers Market’s pick-up veggie box
For the past few months, we’ve all been hunkered down at home, leaving many of us scrambling to make do with what we have in the fridge or anything not expired in our pantries. This weekly guide will help you ease off the stress of finding the “perfect” recipe to fit whatever you have in your kitchen and will instead be catered to you, what you have or what you can easily pick up at a local farmers’ market. All of these “guides” are easily tweaked and substituted, and will include as many alternatives as possible. I find that as long as you use fresh local ingredients, you really can’t go wrong!
Adult mac and cheese is my take on the classic Roman dish, Cacio e pepe. It’s almost as easy as boxed mac and cheese, and the addition of green, seasonal local vegetables takes it to a new level of sophistication and healthfulness. Any type of pasta that you have in your pantry will work; you could even try it with gnocchi, orzo or Casa Pasta’s spinach fettuccine. The Santa Monica-based pasta maker now offers pickup through the drive-thru Playa Vista Farmers Market at CTRL Collective (12575 Beatrice St.) on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
However, if you want more of a challenge, make this dish with homemade pasta! (See instructions below.) You most likely already have all of the ingredients in your kitchen, and it’s a fun project to take on with your family. The veggies you use are entirely up to you — although you may like to try it with some veggies from your local farmers’ market. (Playa Vista’s farmers market now offers a veggie box, too; visit farmermark.com/locavore for a full list of vendors and delivery times.)
You can choose to add as much and as many as you’d like!
8 ounces of dried or fresh pasta (See how to make your own homemade pasta down below.)
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese (If you have pecorino or a similar hard cheese, that will work perfectly as well.)
1 tablespoon of Black pepper (Amount is flexible depending on your spice tolerance!)
2 cloves of minced garlic
Lemon Zest from one lemon
Any of the following fresh green, seasonal veggies (The amount you want to put in is up to you!):
Salt, to taste
• First, boil a large pot of salted water. Cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, and quickly blanch them in the boiling water until they’re half-cooked. Without draining the water, remove the vegetables from the pot and into a bowl of ice water. This process will preserve the natural bright-green color of the veggies. For leafy or aromatic vegetables such as spinach or leeks, leave them out of the blanching process and save them for later.
• After shocking them in cold water, drain the vegetables and pat them dry. Spread them out on a baking sheet and coat with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you’d like. Broil on high on the top rack of the oven until golden brown and crispy.
• While the veggies are in the oven, cook the pasta in the same water until 2 minutes from cooked. Meanwhile, whisk together the parmesan cheese, a ladle of the pasta water, and a drizzle of olive oil in a bowl until it forms a smooth paste. In a pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add the ground pepper and minced garlic over medium-high heat. This would be a good time to add leeks if you’re using them. Once the garlic is softened and browned, take the pasta out of the water and mix it in with the pepper and garlic in the pan. Lower the heat and add the parmesan mixture, stirring until fully incorporated. Let it simmer until it thickens. If it’s too dry, add some more pasta water. If it’s too watery, add some more parmesan. Once everything is bubbling and thickened, mix in the broiled summer veggies and spinach, if you’re using them. Add salt to taste.
• To serve, top with fresh basil, more ground pepper, and parmesan cheese to taste. Sprinkle on some lemon zest for an extra zing. To make this dish into a well-rounded meal, pair with grilled chicken, steak, or shrimp. For pork lovers, add some chopped up bacon when you start frying the garlic.
How to Make Your Own Pantry Pasta
1 cup of AP flour per large serving (I like to mix in some semolina or double 0 flour for texture.)
1 Egg per serving
¼ teaspoon of Salt
A drizzle of olive oil
• In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt, and form a well in the center. Crack in the egg and pour a drizzle of olive oil in the well, whisking with a fork to slowly incorporate the flour. Whisk in a tablespoon or two of water.
• Once the dough comes together, knead it for ten minutes on a work surface until smooth; the dough should be soft but should not be sticking to the work surface. Add more water or flour to adjust if the dough is too wet or dry.
• Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
• Shape the dough however you’d like; if you’re feeling noodles, roll the dough out and cut them into strips. If you’re feeling cut pasta, I find making cavatelli (the hot dog bun-shaped kind) the easiest. To do this, cut off a section of the dough, and roll into a thin, long tube. Taking a butter knife, cut off a small, penny-sized sliver of the tube, and using the back of the knife, press and roll over a fork or cheese grater to get an imprinted, shell-like shape. The imprints are perfect for picking up the sauce.
• Dust the pasta with flour, and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.