Lawry’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese

There are just some foods that you associate with comfortable, casual dining. Casseroles are one type that comes to mind. Another is pizza, which can satisfy the heartiest of appetites.

I’d like to add macaroni and cheese to that list. It is classic comfort food, and perfect for a summertime get-together.

The following baked mac ‘n’ cheese recipe was adapted from one at Lawry’s Carvery in Los Angeles, which was covered by Times food writer Noelle Carter.

And yes, it is the same Lawry’s that originated the seasoned salt.

Lawry’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese
¼ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 large bay leaf
4¾ cups milk
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 1 tablespoon butter, diced
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
4¾ cups plus 1½ cups grated Cheddar cheese, divided
1¼ cups heavy cream
2 pounds penne pasta
1½ cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Place the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf in a small piece of cheesecloth or coffee filter, and tie together to make a sachet. In a large saucepan, place the milk and sachet and bring to a simmer over low heat, careful not to boil. Remove from heat.
While the milk is heating, in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat, careful not to brown. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the flour to form a roux. Stir the roux occasionally for 5 minutes, watching that it does not stick to the base of the pot.
Slowly whisk in one-fourth of the milk to form a paste. Slowly whisk in the rest of the milk and the sachet, and season with the 2 teaspoons salt and cayenne pepper. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and stir in 4¾ cups cheese and cream until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is smooth. This makes a scant 2 quarts cheese sauce. Remove and discard the sachet, and set aside.
While the cheese sauce is cooking, make the pasta. In the large pot of salted boiling water, cook the penne to very al dente, about 7 minutes (the pasta will continue cooking as it bakes). Drain the pasta and cool under running water.
Place the pasta in a large bowl, and toss with the cheese sauce. Pour the pasta and cheese sauce into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle over the remaining 1½ cups Cheddar cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the cheese topping is melted and lightly colored, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
Yield: Serves 16.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 657 calories, 25 grams protein, 52 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 39 grams fat (24 grams saturated), 117 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams sugar; 514 milligrams sodium.

Macaroni and Cheese with Prosciutto

There’s not much doubt about what constitutes comfort. According to Wikipedia, comfort food is usually traditional, has a nostalgic or sentimental appeal or simply provides an easy-to-eat, easy-to-digest meal rich in calories, nutrients or both. I think most of us can agree with that.

But because not all people have the same tastes, comfort food can include things such as grilled cheese, tuna casserole, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and beef stroganoff, for example. (For more, see www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/227453/.)

Another food that ranks high according to a reader’s poll conducted by the website about com is macaroni and cheese. I like a good mac ‘n’ cheese recipe, so if a new one comes to my attention, there’s a good chance we might have it for dinner in the near future.

That’s the case with following recipe, courtesy of Noelle Carter of the Los Angeles Times. It’s adapted from a recipe she obtained from Palazzio in Santa Barbara, Calif. The recipe for this classic comfort food includes no less than three kinds of cheese as well as some prosciutto “for a little extra love.”

Macaroni and Cheese with Prosciutto
2 pounds penne pasta
2 cups heavy cream
4 cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
4 cups shredded smoked mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3 ounces prosciutto, diced
5 eggs, lightly beaten
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and bring a large pot of water to boil.
Add the pasta to the water and cook to al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes, or according to the package instructions. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl combine the heavy cream with 3 cups each of the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, the Gorgonzola cheese, the prosciutto and the eggs.
After draining the pasta, turn it into a large bowl and toss with the cheese mixture to coat evenly. Spread the pasta into a 13-by-9-inch greased baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses over the pasta to top.
Cover the baking dish tightly with a greased layer of foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the topping is lightly browned, an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly before serving.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per servings: 725 calories, 37 grams protein, 60 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 38 grams fat; (22 grams saturated), 199 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams sugar, 1,037 milligrams sodium.