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Comfort Food—Mac and Cheese

I just finished back-to-back, all-consuming photo projects. One of which was a recipe booklet for foods paired and created with Rioja wine, with a dozen delicious and creative recipes by Jill Paradiso.

So when I looked down the list and saw the mac and cheese recipe, I couldn’t wait to start. My wife Colleen and I like to experiment in the kitchen with homemade pizzas, and her mac and cheese is always evolving as we try different ratios and types of cheese and other ingredients such as bacon and fresh veggies.

In addition to the wine pairing, this recipe may not be for the younger kids—due to the kick of the cayenne pepper and onions—but for us big kids on a cold winter’s day, there is nothing like a nice Crianza and a warm kitchen filled with the smells of melting cheese and onion. A special thanks to Colleen for agreeing to “model” while I turned our kitchen into a photo studio 😉

More food shots and recipes to come from this tasty project!

Mac and cheese

A sample page from the Rioja "At Home" recipe book

Yield: serves 8 as a side dish
1 lb elbow pasta
¼ onion, finely chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika
1 ¼ cups grated manchego (5 ounces)
1 ¼ cups shredded white cheddar cheese (5 ounces)
2 slices white bread
sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put large pot of water to boil and salt well. Melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, and stir in flour to coat onion well. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes minutes, stirring frequently. In a steady stream, whisk in milk until there are no lumps.
2. Cook over medium heat, whisking often, until mixture in thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, cayenne or paprika and 1 cup of each cheese. While sauce is reducing cook pasta for 8 minutes. Drain and reserve.
3. Toss pasta in cheese mixture and transfer to a 9×13 baking dish. In a food processor, pulse bread until large crumbs form. Toss together with remaining 1/4 cup each of cheddar and manchego, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Top pasta with breadcrumb mixture. Bake until top is golden, about 30 minutes.
Rioja Pairing:
The creaminess from the cheese and the spice from the paprika or cayenne would do well with an aged red, whether it be a Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva.