The hardest part of senior year thus far, if I don’t count the roughly 5,000 pages of reading I have to do this week, has been struggling to find a good name for my apartment. If I am entirely honest, I feel a little left out when my friends live in apartments with such carefully formulated whimsical names as “Floozy Haus” and “The Retirement Community.” It’s been a struggle, but if I had it my way, we’d be named after the food we have far too much of in the fridge right now—cheese.
We like cheese, maybe a little too much, but when Adam’s Fairacre Farms has inexpensive and high quality cheese, and when one is a part of a cheese share, it is hardly difficult to go a little overboard in the dairy product department.
Recently, however, I decided that I should probably up my cheese game. It was a tough conclusion to reach, but I realized I cannot spend my entire senior year eating plain cheese, dolmas and olives—as easy as that sounds. So in an effort to expand my palate, I decided to give a baked spinach mac and cheese a try.
Now, I don’t mess around with low quality cheese. I was not going for some mediocre Kraft macaroni and cheese nonsense. Plus, I was having a friend over for dinner, and so I had a reason to eat a teensy bit better than I normally do on my own. One must always feed one’s guests well, after all.
So, I picked up some gouda cheese while I was out at Adam’s for the week’s groceries, along with a box of miniature rotini, and set about finding a recipe that I would like to use. Because I am picky and horrible, I did not find one, so I made one up.
While my housemate made and tossed a salad, I set about making a white sauce and tasking our dinner guest with probably unhelpfully vague directions about grating cheese or chopping onions. How much cheese? “I dunno, a lot?” How big should the onions be? “Probably not huge.” Since the mac and cheese ended up delicious, I stand by those directions: a lot of cheese, not huge chunks of onions.
I had also never made white sauce before, so that process was an adventure, especially since I continue with my irrational refusal to use recipes for anything but the most complicated of dishes. Fortunately, my stubbornness has mostly worked out in the past, so I continue to go about my cooking with a rather unhelpfully carefree attitude that makes recreating recipes, or explaining them to others, difficult at best.
After draining the pasta, mixing in the cheese and tossing it all into a baking pan, I realized that I forgot to add the spinach. Because I am an incompetent senior, I just decided to rip it up and mix it in with the still hot pasta, reasoning that it would wilt there just as well as it would in a pot of water. I was wrong and the finished product had awkward sized pieces of untitled spinach throughout, but, hey, no one is perfect and spinach is always delicious.
Thirty minutes in and the oven was heated up at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was ready: warm and gooey and delicious. Served with a green salad, courtesy of my housemate, and some crusty garlic bread, it was a huge improvement on my normal dinner, some sort of variation on eggs, cheese, rice and olives that gets old about as quickly as one would suspect that it might.
And, ultimately, it was not a particularly difficult dish to make. With only a few staple ingredients, cheese, pasta, milk, flour, greens and anything else one might want to use to spruce up dinner, this macaroni and cheese was a deceptively simple dish that I will certainly be using for every potluck in my foreseeable future.
Now, if only I had measured my ingredients in any meaningful way, then I might be able to faithfully recreate it. For now, I suppose I will just have to continue blissfully making up everything as I go along, and hoping it works out. It has so far.
2 TBS Milk
4 TBS Butter
3 TBS Flour
Grated Gouda cheese
Grated cheddar cheese (optional)
Bread crumbs (optional)
1 box small pasta
Spices to taste
1.Cook pasta according to box directions in well salted water, adding spinach during the last half of cooking. Strain and set aside.
2.Heat butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Stir in flour, milk and onions. Stirring constantly, not allowing butter to burn, until thick and creamy.
3.Add cheese to white sauce.
4.Combine pasta, spinach and cheese sauce and place in square baking sheet. Sprinkle cheddar and breadcrumbs on top if desired.
5.Bake in preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes.