Toronto is experiencing one the coolest summers and definitely a wet one with a couple of rainfalls a day. The thermometer has breached 30 Celsius a mere three times.
Toronto has also seen some labour unrest with some summer strikes (major one being a strike by the city’s garbage collectors). Me thinks summer is on strike too!
Last week, I almost made a hot soup. This cooler weather begs for warm comfort food but I resisted. I’m the type of person who enjoys salads in the summer and soups in the cooler months (cold soups being the exception).
The comfort dish I chose was a baked macaroni & cheese. In Greece, “makaronia” is the term used to describe any time of pasta. I’m about to leave for Greece and recipes are being created and manipulated to clean-out fridge and freezer items begging to be consumed.
I remembered that I had some leftover spinach pasta that was made for making a Lasagna of Emilia-Romagna (recipe to be posted at a later date) and I had pondered how else to use the leftovers. The spinach pasta was in the form of lasagna sheets. I tore them up into smaller pieces, resembling broad noodles. In Greece, Hilopites are a pasta made of flour, eggs and milk and when torn-up like this, they are called “patsavoures” or…rags.
The answer was a baked macaroni & cheese, a la Greque of course! Spinach and Feta go very well together, a Bechamel is used (also utilized in Greek cooking), I love pasta (Greeks adore their pasta) and a combination of Feta and Graviera (Gruyere works) fine help bring this dish together.
There are no herbs here but the Bechamel gets a boost from some grated onion, garlic and freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper.
Try and find a spinach pasta. As I stated before…spinach and Feta are classic Greek combo and it’s the little extras that matter in a dish. If you can’t find such pasta, toss some baby spinach along with the pasta and Bechamel/cheese mixture.
May I take your order? These would easily sell in any restaurant or diner. Try them…you’ll see!
Greek Macaroni & Cheese
Approx 500 gr. of Spinach pasta (or pasta of your choice)
(2 cups of baby spinach if you cannot find such pasta)
1 cup of grated Graviera cheese (or Gruyere)
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. of flour
1 small onion, passed through a box grater
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 can of evaporated milk
1 tsp. of fresh grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 slab (1/2 cup) of Feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp. of unsalted melted butter
1/2 cup of coarse bread crumbs
1 8X11″ greased baking dish or 4 individual serving vessels
Pre-heated 350F oven
- Grease your baking vessel(s) with butter and set aside. You may also pre-heat your oven (middle rack). Have your Mise en place ready like grating and crumbling your cheeses, make the Feta crumble by melting some butter and using a spoon, mix the crumbled Feta (1/2 cup), coarse bread crumbs. Set aside.
- Place a large pot of water on the stove-top and bring to a boil.
- In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, add your butter, grated onion and smashed garlic and saute while stirring with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes. Now add the flour and keep stirring for about 3 minutes to cook out the rawness from the flour.
- Now with a whisk, add a steady stream of the can of evaporated milk. Bring to a gradual boil over medium-high heat while stirring. Continue to whisk until the mixture has smoothed (any lumps will melt away). One the sauce has thickened, you may add your grated Graviera (Gruyere) cheese.
- Keep the pot on the stove-top but turn the heat off while adding the grated cheese. Your sauce should be thick. Add the grated nutmeg and season with salt and pepper, according to taste. Take off the heat and add the crumbled Feta into the sauce. Set aside and keep warm.
- Strain your pasta and toss in some olive oil (to prevent from sticking). Place in a bowl and add your Bechamel/cheese sauce and gently toss to coat. Spoon into your baking vessel(s) and sprinkle the Feta Crumble on top.
- Bake in your pre-heatedÂ oven for approx. 30-40 minutes or until the top has become golden/brown. Allow to cool for 5- minutes. ServeÂ hot.
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