posted: 07 Jul 2008
I made this for my wife, Ginny, to cheer her up a little as she's not feeling too good at the moment. She said that she wanted a 'naughty' pasta for dinner, so I came up with this. It worked out so well, I thought I'd share it. It's actually a grown up mac 'n' cheese. This recipe is enough for two, the ingredients are:
Pasta - Any choice of your favourite pasta, although something small-ish
would be best, I chose fusili, but bowtie would probably work just as well, go
for your life.
Butter - two large teaspoons for the sauce base and a little for frying the onions
1 Tablespoon of plain flour - or so, you'll only use what you need
1 Cup of milk - no fat/low fat is fine, full fat just makes it naughtier
1/2 a large-ish onion - I used a white onion
Fresh Oregano and Basil
4-6 cloves of garlic
1/4 a cup of grated Parmesan and maybe some Cheddar
Real bacon pieces - enough to taste, probably about a tablespoon
Chopped Bell pepper - enough to give some colour and taste
Sauce - Finely chop half of a medium to large onion. I prefer a white onion, however, a yellow one would probably be ok too. Skin 4-6 garlic pieces and put then to one side. If you have a garlic press, you'll need to get that ready, otherwise you can very finely chop the garlic or crush it using the side of a wide knife (just be careful of your fingers). In a small frying pan, melt a little butter over a low heat and begin to fry the onions. Soon after they start to cook, add in some finely chopped fresh oregano and basil. Once the onion starts to clear, add in the garlic (crushing it in if you can), cook for a minute or so more and then take off the heat.
The sauce base is a basic roux. I'd never made one when I first made this and I'd only ever seen it made on a TV show, some 5 or so years ago, so I was pleasantly surprised by how well it turned out. I started with about two large teaspoons of butter which I melted in a pan over a low heat. I then took about one good tablespoon of plain flour, the quantity isn't really important as you only use as much as you need. When the butter is liquid, but not boiling, add a little (and I mean a little) of the four. Using either a small wisk or spatula, stir the flour into the butter. You're trying to prevent the mixture from going lumpy. Keep adding the flour, little by little until the mixtures gets to the consistency of a wet paste. It definitely shouldn't be dry at all but when you pass your spatula through it, it mustn't flow back too quickly either.
Now, keeping the mixture over a very gentle heat take the milk and again, SLOWLY, add it to the mixture in the pan. A small splash at a time, mixing it well each time. The mixture will thicken up, getting to be almost like a dough, but that is ok. Just keep adding the milk slowly and mixing well, keeping it smooth. The sauce will eventually begin to turn more liquid and runny again, at this point you can increase the heat very slightly. The heat will start to make it thicken into a white sauce, on which you add the rest of the ingredients.
The next step is to add the fried onion and garlic from the frying pan, mixing it into the sauce. Keep an eye on the temperature and consitency of the sauce, don't let it start to boil (or even get close) and you don't want it too thick either. Keep stirring as you add in the cheese, bacon and the bell pepper. Continue to keep the sauce over a gentle heat and keep stirring for another 5-10 minutes. You want the flavours to infuse a little. You can also add a little freshly ground black pepper, but go gently so people can add it later, you don't want too much.
And that's pretty much it. Cook the pasta, drain and add in to the pan with the sauce in it. Give it a good gentle stir and serve.