Wednesday, April 18, 2007

comfort food

Do you have a comfort food? Most people do. Although I didn't grow up eating mac and cheese for dinners, I am beginning to think one of my comfort foods runs along the line of a pasta with a cheese.

I recently saw Ivonne's post in which she made a LOT of nice food and a particular dish caught my eye--her Farmer's Pasta.

Since the air is still on the nippy side, I decided to make a baked pasta for dinner last night.

The type of baked pasta that I'm used to is with a tomato meat sauce topped with cheddar cheese, but most times when we eat out in Japan, we never find that type, we almost always find a cream type sauce or white sauce with different types of cheeses.

I decided to try to recreate the baked pastas in Japan with a recipe for the bechamel sauce from Andrew Weil's cookbook. I think most of the recipes in this book are re-done to make them a bit healthier, although I deviated a bit, so maybe my version is just as guilty as a normal bechamel?

This is the original recipe for the bechamel sauce: from "The Healthy Kitchen" by Andrew Weil, M.D. & Rosie Daley

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups warm milk
2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup thinly slice scallions or green onions
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

Pour the olive oil into a medium saucepan over low heat.
Put the milk in a separate saucepan over low heat only until it becomes warm; do not let it boil.
Gradually stir the flour into the warm oil, stirring constantly. Let cook for about 1 minute to make a brownish roux.
Slowly add 1/4 cup of the warm milk and whisk it to blend it in.
Pour in the remaining milk, continuing to whisk.
Allow the sauce to simmer about 2 minutes just to thicken slightly, then turn off the heat.
Mix in the cheese, spices and salt. Cover the sauce with plastic wrap until ready to use.

NOTES: I made only half of this sauce recipe. I also didn't use Parmesan cheese. I used 20g Mozzarella, 20g Gouda and 20g Gruyere--grated. I put half of the grated cheeses into the sauce and kept half to top the pasta with before putting it into the oven. Also, I didn't have green onions or scallions, so I left it out of the sauce. The rest of the dish is kind of an ad-lib.

1/2 red pepper (chopped)
1/2 onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic, minced
5 stalks asparagus (chopped)
2 slices bacon (sliced thin) (doesn't bacon make everything all better?)
2 cups dry whole wheat fusili, cooked about 2 minutes less than directed on package
pepper to taste
oregano to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
a small handful of Italian parsley (chopped)

In a pan, put the olive oil and heat, add garlic and onion.
When onions start to wilt, add red pepper, bacon and asparagus.
When everything is quite cooked, add seasonings.
Then add the cooked pasta and white sauce and mix well.
Divide into 2 gratin dishes and top with reserved cheese.
Put under the broiler for about 15-20 minutes.
Top with freshly chopped Italian parsley.

Creamy and piping hot, it was heavenly...Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Wow, That looks so delicious and comforting! I like creamy pasta as well but I've never finished any to the end. Because I feel like I need some Kimchi or any kinds of spice half way through the pasta. :)

K and S said...

You could probably add more cayenne pepper to the bechamel sauce, Sue. That would kick the sauce up and maybe you could enjoy the pasta to the end!

Take care.

Anonymous said...


Your pasta is just gorgeous! I loved the Farmer's Pasta and it's just proof of what a comfort food it is!

K and S said...

Thanks for the idea, Ivonne! It was great comfort food indeed!

Take care.