I spent two years looking for the perfect pasta casserole recipe.

I spent two years looking for the perfect pasta casserole recipe.

Almost two years ago, I set myself a crazy challenge: to add a new dish to my gastronomic repertoire, which was then limited to two recipes. After intense thought, my thoughts turned to macaroni and cheese casserole, and not entirely unconsciously. This is a comforting and very symbolic dish that my grandmother cooked for me the day after drunken evenings.

Landing more or less recently in Paris in January 2019, I quickly realized that I was missing an important accessory for the success and smooth running of this crazy adventure: an oven. After all, what’s the point of sublimating the art of pasta gratin without that which is its essence and the very reason for its existence, namely golden and crispy crust?

The essence of this first obstacle was broken 800 kilometers from my Paris apartment, in my native Pyrenees. It was there that I went to repair said furnace – which, given its condition, at least seems to have survived the last two passages of Halley’s Comet – before lugging it clumsily to Paris, between the station piers and the narrow corridors of the TGV. I have a practical sense of mine, I agree.

“I decided…”

Four set, standing proudly in the middle of my kitchen, not without a certain amount of courage that I make my first gratins. This first attempt was far from final, if not quite heartbreaking. From pasta gratin, which I initially thought was quite attractive, I took some overly crispy pasta, almost burnt, hanging over a ton of cheap grated emmental.

After wiping away the grief of this failure, I made up my mind. It’s time to swallow the pretense of this self-taught impulse and ask for help from the leader of my environment, whom I trust the most: my grandmother. After a constructive telephone conversation, I felt ready. The new motivation from this conversation seemed to put me back on the right track: a recipe that he worked out for a long time and which I started sending too quickly.

Mushroom Angle Syndrome?

I then fleshed out the basis of my recipe with his precious advice by first boiling the pasta in milk, adding fresh cream, as well as breadcrumbs obtained from the leftovers of an old baguette of a few days.

A week later, in the second installment, the verdict is clear: the dish is certainly pleasant, no doubt better than the first version, but I was still far from rediscovering the flavor and calorie thrill of the casserole of my youth. Would grandma lie to me to keep her precious recipe with her forever, as some might do with their mushroom corner?

Somewhat scalded, I then decided to give another facet to my challenge: to offer mankind the ultimate recipe for macaroni and cheese casseroles. This second failure is certainly immeasurable suffering, but it has the advantage of bringing a completely unexpected meaning to my life, this recipe will have for me the value of an existential revelation.

My aversion to milk made me the first to stop using it. Thus, I avoided trouble and the pathetic sight of a series of top-of-the-hearts, alone in my kitchen. However, the cream did not find better.

Illusion Pasta with cheese

As a true conqueror of the gratins, I then decided to find my salvation elsewhere and look across the English Channel and even across the Atlantic, wondering Pasta with cheese. In fact, this is the Anglo-Saxon analogue of our national pasta gratin, and therefore it seems logical to turn to it.

The idea of ​​cheddar doesn’t strike me as completely absurd at first, even if it lacks subtlety sorely. Blending the local cheese, although originating in Switzerland, with the cheddar makes more sense to me, besides illustrating a wonderful union between peoples.

This new test is more convincing this time, but it still lacks that little detail that would bring a little delicacy to this animal dish. And yet, I made sure to include nutmeg in my preparation, as well as thin strips of excellent white ham, to get rid of the rubbery consistency of industrial diced ham and thus reinforce the protein mattress of the recipe. I also choose industrial breadcrumbs, which, much to my surprise, are much more effective than my homemade breadcrumbs.

A few months later, in the middle of a harsh winter, I decided to put on an apron, again using a recipe I found online. It comes straight from the gastronomic repertoire of a little chef who will certainly not tell you anything, a certain Paul Bocuse.

We are talking about a serving of cheese of 75 grams for four people. Does this Paul Bocuse have nothing up his sleeve? By comparison, my recipe fits like this is over 400 grams of smart blend – 50:50 – Gruyère and Cheddar. However, I must admit, Paul Bocuse is a reasonable point: what to offer the smoothness of fresh cream and milk.

“I pepper everything like my life depended on it”

Consuming nothing of the liquid from the udder of the cow, so that is saved in finding a solution by replacing the milk with two yolks, chicken broth and 100 g of parmesan. Because you can never put too much cheese in a dish, especially in a casserole. Last detail, and not least, I pepper it all as if my life depended on it.

After the nth and final test, this is me, my masterpiece was born. It will take me, of course, it took two and a half years of trying, but I think that I humbly bring everything superfluous into the building with this recipe. And I’m ready to die happy. Make no mistake, this recipe is perfect to face the harshest winters. However, run if you’re going to parade on the beaches this summer.

For the recipe, here are the ingredients:

  • 500 grams of pasta
  • sour cream
  • stock cube (or homemade stock)
  • 200 g Conte
  • 200 g cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 100 grams of parmesan (grated)
  • 2 slices white ham
  • 2 egg yolks
  • nutmeg
  • butter

Preheat oven to 180°C (e. 6). Prepare your pasta. Place the bouillon cube in a pot of boiling water and your dish’s oil. Cut two pieces of ham into thin strips. Pour a pot of fresh cream into your broth (make sure the sauce has a good consistency), include 2 egg yolks, and also 100 grams of Parmesan.

Pour in turn, and little by little your pasta, your sauce, your slices of ham and 200 grams of Comte in your plate. Mix everything. Cover the dish with 200 grams of cheddar. Coating with bread crumbs. Bake your dish for 20 to 30 minutes. Enjoy hot.