Blue Cheese Mac (or not) and Cheese with Mushrooms and Garlic Bread-Crumb-Topping

This recipe goes out to some of my family back home, Becky and Mike, and their two adorable kids. I made this for them based on a dish they had at a little beach-side café in Lahaina. I hope we can make it a tradition!

Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese with Mushrooms and Garlic-Bread-Crumb Crust

  • 1 lb short pasta (I think we used penne, not macaroni)
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk (you could use lower-fat milk, or add cream if you want it richer)
  • 3 cups grated cheddar cheese (I like to use white, but either is fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 lb mushrooms, sliced thin (it would be great to use a variety of mushrooms, the restaurant used some special ones grown on the Big Island, but we just had buttons)
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (or more if you like a lot of crunchy topping)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper

*Note: if you are not a fan of mushrooms, leave them out. You could add other cooked veggies, like broccoli, peas, or spinach, or some kind of protein, like chicken, shrimp, or seitan.

Saute the mushrooms and onion in a little olive oil, letting them brown before stirring. Add in some salt, pepper and 1 clove of minced garlic. Cook until tender and most of liquid is cooked away. Set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large sauce pan and add the flour. Stir until smooth and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until it becomes golden and bubbly. Add in the milk, whisking continuously to get out all the lumps. Keep whisking and bring the mixture to almost a boil. It should get pretty thick.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in salted water according to the package directions, drain, and return to its pot.

Take the cream sauce off the heat, and add in the grated cheddar, mixing until smooth. Add in the cooked mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Gently fold in the blue cheese (I like to keep some chunks in there). Taste and add salt and pepper as needed (we also added red chili flakes for some kick). Pour the cheese over the cooked and drained pasta and fold to combine.

Pour the pasta into a baking dish. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add 2 cloves minced garlic along with some salt and pepper. Mix in panko to coat. Sprinkle mixture over the pasta and put into the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes until bubbling and topping is golden brown. If you are in a rush, increase the oven temp and watch closely to get the topping brown.

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