Friday Food… Rob’s Mac’n’Cheese with a twist.

Today is a momentous day on Florence Finds as we have a bona fide Friday Food submission from a man! All for equal opportunities here, we realise that the concept swings both ways and interestingly I get a lot of comments when I’m chatting to men about Florence Finds about the Food section. So male readers, please feel free to contribute, women haven’t got the monopoly in this department!

I’m pleased to say I have road tested this recipe since receiving it (delish!) and here it is…

I love all things Italian and nothing reminds me of the amazing times I’ve spent in Italy more than a good pasta dish. I also love cheese (in vast quantities) so I wanted to create my own take on the classic macaroni cheese recipe. The breadcrumb topping is a pretty standard (but really effective) addition for a lot of people so I’ve simply taken the basic macaroni cheese with breadcrumb topping and added some of my favourite ingredients from other pasta dishes. I’ve never seen anyone do basil breadcrumbs before so I’ll gladly take full credit for that idea (although I’m sure someone, somewhere has done it before me!)

*Image Credit: Verses from my Kitchen

Rob’s Mac and Cheese with Spinach, Pancetta and a Breadcrumb, Pine Nut and Basil topping.

Serves 5-6 people

500g dry macaroni

120g dry bread (any kind, stale is fine)
50g pine nuts
25g fresh basil
olive oil

olive oil
100g diced pancetta or bacon lardons (or chopped bacon is fine)
a few handfuls of plain flour
approx 1 pint of milk
100g ricotta
250g strong mature cheddar
good couple of handfuls of fresh spinach

1) Start the macaroni cooking as per the packet guidelines. Keep an eye on it and remove from heat and drain when ready.
2) Preheat the oven to a moderate temperature – gas mark 5 or equiv.
3) Put the bread, pine nuts and basil in a food processor until finely chopped/blended. Pour in a little olive oil to bring together.
4) In a large pan heat some olive oil and cook off the pancetta.
5) Remove temporarily from heat and stir in some flour to soak up the oil – start with 3-4 tablespoons.
6) Return to heat and stir in some milk. Start with around 1/4-1/2 pint. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Use a whisk if the sauce goes lumpy.
7) Continue adding milk until you have a good amount of thick sauce – you’re aiming for enough to thoroughly cover the macaroni. If the sauce goes too thin or you don’t have enough, make a paste from some more flour and boiled water in a cup and add this to the sauce. DO NOT add flour directly to the sauce – it will go lumpy.
8) When you’re happy that you have enough sauce with a good consistency, add the ricotta and (grated) cheddar. Stir well.
9) Stir in the spinach until it starts to wilt.
10) Add the (cooked) macaroni to the sauce and mix together.
11) In a good sized baking dish, spread the macaroni and sauce mixture out. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top and spread evenly across.
12) Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are nicely brown and crisp.

Rob Riley (You might know him as Tiffany Grant-Riley‘s husband.) 😉

So will you be trying this one at home over the weekend readers?


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