Growing up in our house focused heavily around meal times and when mum replied to the daily, ‘What’s for tea, mum?’ with ‘Macaroni Cheese’ I’m sure the whole street could hear the cheers that went up. It was the 80’s and pasta was already a family favourite, I can remember sitting at the table in the kitchen waiting for mum to finish grilling the top to a crispy cheesy for us and wishing she would hurry up.
Once on the table I would happily squirt some tomato ketchup on top because that’s what we did back then. If any Italians are reading this I can feel your shock and only after spending years in your country and learning how you cook and eat can I see now the error of my ways, however, it was so good!
Funnily enough when I lived in Italy no one had heard of Macaroni Cheese, they had Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi which everyone agreed was most likely where our Macaroni Cheese came from. A quick check on Wikipedia has it that Macaroni Cheese is an English dish made of short pasta and a cheese sauce.
I wanted to make it for the girls and see if they had the same reaction to me all those years ago. They did. The success of macaroni cheese continues!
If you are introducing no meat nights into the family diet then this one is very popular and will fill them up. It’s a very simple recipe that requires baking in the oven and of course, it can be pimped in so many ways. You could add fried bacon lardons, or a mixture of vegetables cut up small.
I served it up in it’s 1980’s glory but I did not offer the squirt of ketchup on top even if dad and I did have a good sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper though ;)
Macaroni Cheese | a family favourite revisited
Author: Marianne Weekes
Recipe type: pasta
- 300g macaroni
- 25g butter
- 25g plain flour
- 600 full fat milk
- 1 tbsp English mustard (optional)
- 225g Cheddar cheese grated
- Heat the oven to 200C Gas mark 6
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water.
- Melt 25g of the butter in a pan and add the flour, stir for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk whisk gently to remove any lumps that may form.
- Cook over a medium heat stirring continuously until thickened, season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mustard if using and two thirds of the grated Cheddar cheese, mix well together.
- Add the pasta and combine well, pour into a baking dish and scatter the remaining cheese on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until golden
- Spice it up with chopped chilli peppers added to the mix.
- Mix up the cheeses and go for a quattro (4) formaggi (cheese)
Please also see my Macaroni cheese with bacon and chives recipe
Trout is very good for you, it is low in saturated fats but high in essential proteins and omega-3 fatty acids, it’s also high in vitamin D – aka the sunshine vitamin – which so many of us are deficient in.
British Trout is very easy to cook with and it’s economical too – plus all the healthy bits mentioned above. All this together makes it ideal for a family meal. So British Trout sent me all the ingredients to try their recipe for Fusilli with Smoked Trout.
If you’d like to introduce some fish to your weekly menu take a look a the British Trout recipe page here where you’ll find loads of delicious ideas to inspire you. In the meantime –
Fusilli with smoked trout
Ingredients for 4 – 6
2 carrots cut into matchsticks
1 leek cut into matchsticks’2 celery sticks cut into matchsticks
150ml vegetable stock
225g smoked trout fillets skinned and cut into strips
200g cream cheese
150ml white wine or fish stock
15ml Chopped fresh dill or fennel
225g fusilli or other dried pasta
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh dill sprigs to garnish
- Put the carrot, leek and celery matchsticks into a pan and add the stock. Bring to the boil and cook quickly for 4 -5 minutes until most of the stock has evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the smoked trout.
- Put the cream cheese and wine or fish stock into a pan over a medium heat and whisk until smooth, add the dill or fennel and slat and pepper.
- Cook the fusilli in boiling salted water, when the pasta is tender or al dente drain it thoroughly and return to the pan.
- Add the sauce and toss lightly, transfer to a serving bowl. top with the cooked vegetables and trout.
- Serve immediately, garnished with sprigs of dill.
A delicious pasta dish that is easy to prepare and the children loved it too. My only thoughts on this one is the faffing around with matchsticks which is time consuming and if you’re not precise with a knife your matchsticks may look like boulders as mine do! I think chopping into a small dice would work too – an extra time saver.
There are certain recipes that take me right back to my childhood. I can see us sitting around the round kitchen table in Forge Lane and waiting for mum to pull the macaroni cheese out of the grill and serve it to us.
We’d all squirt a bit of ketchup on top as that was ‘before Italy’ and it tasted good anyway.
I decided to try the recipe on the girls to see if they liked it as much as we did as kids and they did, asking for seconds! The only difference I made was to add in a bit of bacon I had lying around in the fridge and I’m glad I did as it added colour and texture to this already delicious meal.
In fact I’ve made it since and chopped in a few sausages that had been cooked previously and cooled and it had equally good results.
Another time I added some roasted vegetables I had leftover which would make the perfect veggie dish for tea one evening.
Here’s the basic recipe – you decide how you’re going to pimp yours
Macaroni cheese with bacon and chives
Author: Marianne Weekes
Recipe type: Supper
- 300g macaroni (penne and fusilli work just as well)
- ⅚ slices of smokey bacon rinds cut off and chopped into bite size pieces
- 25g butter
- 25g flour
- pinch of pepper
- 450ml milk
- ½ tsp English mustard
- 125g Cheddar cheese (or a mixture of cheeses) grated
- Chopped chives to sprinkle on top
- Black pepper freshly ground
- Parmesan and bread to serve
- Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water for about 8 minutes until al dente. drain and rinse under a hot tap
- Gently fry the bacon in a non stick pan - no oil should be needed as it will sweat it's own out, remove to one side.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and pepper and stir for 1 minute.
- Gradually add the milk stirring all the time to avoid lumps.
- Continue stirring whilst simmering for about 2 minutes and feel the sauce thickening.
- Add the mustard.
- Stir ⅔ of the grated cheese into the sauce. Add the bacon and most of the chives keeping back a little for garnish.
- Add the pasta, season with black pepper and transfer to an ovenproof dish.
- Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over and place under a preheated grill on its highest setting.
- Grill until the top is brown and crispy.
- Snip some chives over the top with scissors and serve with parmesan cheese and fresh bread
- Can be made in advance and reheated to serve.
If you are a fan of pasta alla carbonara and you like fish then chances are you’ll be tempted to make this quick, pasta with prawns recipe which is perfect for all the family and economical too.
By choosing the basic range of prawns, which are the tiny ones – perfect for sandwiches, tarts and pasta, and selecting the salmon trimmings this economical pasta with prawns recipe is on the plate in 15 minutes and is high in omega 3 too.
Did you know that the properties of fish are renowned for concentration? In Italy when it is exam time the mammas serve up lots and lots of fish to their children under stress.
Whilst the pasta is boiling you simply beat the eggs, cream and cheese together, you pop the frozen peas into the boiling water that’s cooking the pasta for the last few minutes and throw the prawns salmon and basil leaves on at the end, it really is a no fuss delicious meal.
A meal that is perfect for those evenings or lunches when you’re hungry and you want your meal now but don’t have any energy to cook up something elaborate. That’s enough chat here’s the recipe
Fusilli with prawns salmon and peas
Author: Marianne Weekes
Recipe type: Easy
- 400g fusilli for 4 adults (100 g for adult portion, 50 g for small child)
- 2 large eggs - yolks only
- 75ml cream
- ½ lemon juice only
- 25g Parmesan cheese
- black pepper
- 300g frozen peas
- 150g prawns
- 150 g salmon trimmings chopped into small pieces
- a few fresh basil leaves
- more Parmesan to serve and black pepper too
- Put on a pan of boiling salted water for the pasta.
- Beat the egg yolks, cream, lemon juice, cheese and black pepper together in a bowl
- Cook the fusilli and when two minutes from being ready add the frozen peas to the water, bring back to the boil and drain after a couple of minutes when the pasta is soft but firm and the peas are cooked.
- Return to the pan, add the prawns, salmon and basil leaves and toss through evenly add the yolk mixture and stir thoroughly, the heat of the pasta will be enough to cook the sauce.
- Serve in bowls with freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper.
Right this is a super easy and delicious recipe to follow although it is a bit messy in the preparation stage. It’s a recipe I prepared with the girls to get them more involved which they love but I cannot call it quick to get together. The quick version would use lasagna pieces and more white sauce, I’ll add the alternative a the bottom but for now I give you one of my kids favourite all time recipes that I leant in Italy
Spinach and ricotta cannelloni
1 box of cannelloni
500g of frozen spinach
5 slices of sandwich ham
salt and pepper
250g four cheese sauce or white sauce
200g tomato and basil pasta sauce
cheese to grate on top
Defrost the spinach in a bowl. Chop the ham and add to the spinach along with the tub of ricotta, season and mix well to amalgamate all the ingredients.
Cover the bottom of your pyrex ovenproof dish with a layer of tomato sauce, this is to prevent the cannelloni sticking.
Fill the cannelloni tubes with the spinach and ricotta mixture, I used a teaspoon which can be quite a long process, a large syringe or open tube piping bag would most likely be a lot quicker ;)
Lay the filled cannelloni along the dish until completely covered.
Cover with four cheese sauce or white sauce and sprinkle well with grated cheese.
Bake in the oven at 180C for 40 minutes, test the cannelloni with a knife to make sure the pasta has softened.
chopped up into bite sized pieces for little people ;)