Between the love of melted cheese and the recession-motivated mania for thrifty cooking, it should come as no surprise that macaroni and cheese recipes are springing up everywhere. Some are casseroles incorporating up to one pound of cheddar; others try to dress up the dish in a more straightforward, folksy way with potato chips and bacon. Ever since I realized Fettuccine Alfredo was just another version of macaroni and cheese (different noodle, Parmesan instead of cheddar), I've been interested in how far I could push this. The real revelation for me was a recipe for bleu cheese and rotini. Make a buttery, creamy sauce. Mix with pasta. Add crumbled bleu cheese and viola! The opportunities are limitless.
Today's version incorporates a Greek cheese that is less familiar, but inexpensive and a favorite pasta shape -- farfalle (bow ties) with basil. Mizithra is not a cracker-ready cheese. Too firm for spreading, too dry for easy slicing, this nutty sheep's milk cheese is typically part of a meze (appetizer) with olives or is also served with browned butter and pasta. I decided to see if I could incorporate it in my pantheon of macaroni and cheese recipes.
Mizithra and Bow ties(for 2 servings)
1/2 Pound Farfalle (Bow tie) Pasta
2/3 Cup grated Mizithra
2 Tablespoons of grated Parmesan
3 Tablespoon Butter
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped Basil (or 1/4 dry)
Generous dash of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Cook Bow ties in 2 Qt of rapidly boiling water with 2 Tablespoons of salt, about 11 minutes. Yes, I said 2 Tablespoons of salt.
- While the Bow ties cook, melt the butter over very low heat in a 12 inch saute pan with tall sides.
- Before straining the pasta, set aside 1/2 C. of the salty, starchy pasta water.
- Strain the pasta, and empty into the saute pan with the melted butter.
- Add the Heavy Cream to the saute pan. Turn the heat to medium high and gently stir.
- Add the Basil, Cayenne, and Salt and Pepper.
- Continue stirring until the sauce thickens and there is very little liquid in the bottom of the pan. Add the Mizithra and Parmesan.
- The sauce will probably become quite gloppy. Slowly add the reserved pasta water until smooth. Serve immediately.