Age is of no importance. Unless you are cheese – An Old Man Fancy (Cheese Quote)
I love Mac and Cheese. I particularly love Mac and Cheese when it is made with tasty veggies and truffle oil! Then, it is even better when it comes with a great beer. There is a restaurant and beer bar in Libertyville, Illinois, called Firkin. They specialize in interesting and harder to find beers, making them better than your typical beer bar. They also have a very interesting and tasty menu. Several years ago, I fell in love with their Mac and Cheese. But let’s get one thing straight up front, this is not your typical mac and cheese. It is lighter on the cheese. It is more like a vegetable pasta dish that happens to have some cheese in it. As a result, it is a bit healthier than standard mac and cheese. Well, except for that part where you douse it in truffle oil. Still, I made this on on the healthier side of things. So, it gets an angel instead of a devil.
Given that Firkin is well over an hour drive for me, I decided to attempt to copy their Mac and Cheese at home. I think I got close. It is not perfect, but I am noting here for you how I would change it next time, and I am putting the recipe up with those changes incorporated.
I didn’t have a recipe from anyone at Firkin for this and could only go off of some ingredient lists I saw online. One listed aged Wisconsin cheddar, spinach, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, walnuts, and truffle oil. Another made no mention of the artichokes. I left artichokes out, but honestly they would rock in this, so add them if you like. I also added garlic.
I love sundried tomatoes. You can get a jar of them and simply chop them up. I used half of a jar for this recipe.
This is wildly easy to make. Simply sautee mushrooms with garlic in olive oil long enough to brown up the mushrooms. Then add the tomatoes, walnuts, and spinach. Spinach really reduces down an amazing amount, so use a lot. As in over half a bag or even a full bag. This is half of a bag.
Saute everything until the spinach wilts and reduces. This tasty mix would be great in other dishes besides mac and cheese. For example, you might try it in a chicken and rice casserole. Hmmm… that gives me an idea of something to try!
In a separate pot, melt some butter, add some truffle infused oil, and heat that up. Then wisk in flour and your choice of milk (healthier), half and half (a good compromise and what I used), or heavy cream (decadent and devilish). Then add the cheese a handful at a time to slowly melt it. This recipe purposely uses less cheese than most mac and cheese recipes. You just need enough to add some cheesy flavor but not so much that the flavors of the veggies don’t come through. Still, it does use a whole 8 oz bag. Meanwhile also get your pasta cooking. I used whole wheat macaroni to make things healthier. You can use standard white if you like.
Once melted and your pasta is ready as well, combine everything. Then pour it in a baking dish and give it a fairly liberal drizzling of truffle oil. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and parsely, then bake. The result is a tasty, yet not overly cheesy, mac and cheese.
Here is where I would change things. From the photos, you will see that there are a lot of bread crumbs on this. It was too much, so I have cut down the amount in the recipe. If you want them less dry, mix them with some melted butter first. Also, I would have been more liberal with the truffle oil. Yes, that lessens the lightened up mac and cheese aspect of this all. But it adds so much extra flavor!
- 8oz (1/2 box) whole wheat elbow macaroni (you can substitute white if you prefer)
- ½ to ⅔ of a 7-8oz jar of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ½ to 1 bag of baby spinach
- 4 to 8oz chopped walnuts
- 4 T butter
- 4 T olive oil
- 8 oz (1 cup) half and half (substitute milk for a lighter dish and cream for a heavier one)
- 3 T four
- 8oz shredded cheddar cheese
- Truffle infused olive oil
- ¼ to ½ cup bread crumbs
- 1 T fresh parsely, chopped
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Sautee the mushrooms and garlic in 3 T olive oil until the mushrooms start to brown at the edges.
- Add the walnuts, tomatoes, and spinach and sautee until the spinach is wilted
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set the vegetable mix aside
- Prepare the macaroni according to the instructions on the box.
- In a separate deep sauce pan or small dutch oven, melt the butter with one T. of oilve oil
- Once melted, add the half and half and wisk in the flour
- Simmer for 3 minutes
- Add the cheese slowly, stirring constantly, until melted
- Drain the pasta and stir it into the cheese mixture
- Stir in the vegetables
- Transfer to a baking dish and drizzle with truffle infused oil
- Sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs and parsley
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread crumbs are toasted.