Any true Canadian knows that the only real way to make mac 'n' cheese involves a "remove pouch from box" step and that it is served either one of two ways; with or without ketchup. It is our babysitters' saviour, our hockey moms' helper and every college's dorm room norm. No, it is not the same as your Kraft Macaroni & Cheese or your Cheesey Pasta; to do it right it's 'Gotta Be KD'.
Kraft Dinner is as much a part of Cananda as beavers and hockey and mounties and no other nation is as nearly devoted to those straight skinny noodles in the bright orange milky sauce. From coast to coast, for 99 cents, we purchase almost 80 million cobalt blue cartons each year, but affordability aside, we eat it just because we love it. In the words of canuck rock spectacle, Barenaked Ladies, if we had $1,000,000 we'd just eat more (and buy really expensive ketchup with it).
While Kraft Dinner is undeniably amazing, there are points in our lives when we might choose to venture outside of the box (or, as in my case, lack of product availability dictates the choice). Over the years I have tried a slew of " scratch" recipes, from various sources, admittedly without much success; from gloppy cheese to dry and bland, they always fall short on their promise. With grocery day looming (which means pasta at our house) and a craving for comfort food, I decided to eliminate the middle man and take a stab at concocting my own.
Before we embark on today's kitchen adventure, let's clear up any misconceptions that this will be a Kraft Dinner replacement or any sort of attempt at traditional macaroni and cheese. There is no gooey orange goodness or smooth creamy sauce (actually, there's not even any macaroni); but it is astonishingly delicious in it's own right.
Garlic Cream Cheese Penne
|white pepper, milk, cream cheese, minced garlic|
In a small pot, melt a soup spoon's worth of butter over medium heat, taking care to not let it burn or brown, then add 4 large cloves of garlic, minced, (or more or less depending on your garlic flavour preference) and stir until softened. Reduce heat to low, whisk in about 150g cream cheese and, once the cheese is melted, stir in about 200mL of milk, a little bit at a time, until your mixture is well blended and smooth. Season with a dash or two of white pepper, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and any other herbs or spices you might enjoy (I use Vegeta). Don't panic; it will be very liquid-y but will soon reduce and thicken.
As you are preparing the sauce, have a large pot of lightly salted water boiling on the stove. Begin to cook about 400g of pasta at the same time you start to stir the milk into your sauce; your timing should be perfect. I used penne for two reasons; i love how the sauce fills up the insides of the tubes and i only had that or spaghetti available (if you've been following this blog, you know that we've already had spaghetti this week).
|garlic cream cheese sauce|
Meanwhile, back at the sauce, once it has thickened to a point of holding well to a spoon remove it from the heat source and stir in a couple spoonfuls of fresh parmesan cheese. When your penne is cooked to al dante, drain well and return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir to coat evenly. Divide into bowls, top each with a bit of fresh ground pepper, avoid the use of ketchup and enjoy.
|garlic cream cheese penne|