Mac n’cheese with a gourmet twist… mushrooms and truffle oil. Hearty enough to satisfy meat consumers and vegetarian guests…
I’ve traumatically mistaken the use of truffles twice in my life. Last night, FINALLY the phrase ,”third time’s a charm” applied to my culinary achievement. A little while ago, a friend of mine inquired if I ever make meals that don’t turn out right. Yes readers, I am human. I do make mistakes and plenty of them. I usually refrain from blogging about them in an effort to immediately erase them from my memory. So why am I finally coming clean with a few humbling stories? These experiences are actually quite humorous and are incredibly important concepts for individuals attempting to use them.
Chocolate lovers, brace yourself. The reference to “truffles” in Italy does not necessarily refer to a hedonistic, melt in your mouth chocolate sensation. Upon arriving to a truffle festival in northern Italy five years ago, the scent of dirty earth overwhelmed the atmosphere. In my broken Italian, I repeatedly asked where I could find the chocolate. I couldn’t wait to escape this pungent smell. As my eyes scanned the booths of farmers, I noticed two things. One, insanely high prices for items that appeared to look like mushrooms. Second, the word “tartufo” or “truffle” in English clearly labeled these items belonging to the fungus family. I felt devastated and embarrassed beyond belief.
In recent years, I have accepted that “tartufo” does in fact have two meanings – a chocolate dessert and a mushroom like substance. Additionally, I have grown to appreciate the hearty aroma and rustic edge that it adds to a dish. Countless restaurant outings with truffled fries and pastas led me to experiment at home. A concept I should have taken into account… truffle oil provides a dominating flavor in a dish. Only a tiny amount is necessary. With out realizing its power, I drenched a home-made linguine and seemingly unloaded a quarter of the bottle. My husband and I engaged in three bites and then felt so sick that we had to leave the table. The entire pot went straight to the trash can.
Last night, I concocted a mac n’cheese recipe in response to the vegetarian request from Tammy G. The richness in this pasta dish will help anyone forget that no meat is involved. Folks, if you attempt the truffle oil addition, less than one teaspoon is more than enough. I do promise that it will add a remarkable flare true to Italian cuisine.
Truffled Mac n’cheese – serves 4
- 16 oz box of orecchiette pasta
- 1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms, stems removed
- 1 large shallot minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup white wine or white wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp flour
- 3 cups half n half or whole milk – refrain from low-fat milk, too watery
- 2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp truffle oil – optional
Heat a large pot of water over high heat to later submerge pasta. Meanwhile, heat a sauce pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp butter and toss in the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms seasoned with spices. Saute until softened and add more butter as necessary. Add the wine/vinegar and let cook for a few minutes.Mix in the flour. Add the milk and whisk sporadically for next 20 minutes. Should start to thicken. Add more flour or milk if need be.
Cook pasta in boiling water for about 11 minutes. Heat oven to 375. After draining the pasta, add the milky sauce, cheese, and truffle oil if desired. Mix it all together and put in a buttered baking pan. Dust the bread crumbs and parmesan on top. Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Serve.
Wine Pairing: Chardonnay