Mac and cheese is a bonafide classic, a symbol of comfort where the real appeal comes from the simplicity in the ingredients and preparing it. Despite all the variations out there, tinkering with a dish like this can be a sort of a culinary minefield but there are times when all the flavour combinations just sing in a marriage of perfect proportions. ‘Nduja is the ringmaster here, the spicy spreadable Calabrian sausage taking this to new levels where the fleck of chilli combines with the decadent cheesy goodness to offer something new and exciting with a play on the classic that I will certainly make again.
Despite the number of instructions in the method this is very straightforward. If you’ve made a béchamel sauce before, this will be a breeze. If you haven’t, there’s nothing to fear and this simple creamy sauce will be added to your culinary repertoire to transfer to use in everything from a lasagne, cauliflower cheese, in a fish pie or a parsley sauce with bacon or ham.
I’ve left the options for cheese pretty loose, as it should be, this is absolutely perfect with something like a cheddar if that’s all that you have in your fridge. But it’s also a perfect way to use up those odds and ends that you have lurking in the salad drawer (yes that’s the best place to keep your cheese). I used a combination of cheddar, parmesan, manchego and a goat Gouda (this is a hard version of goat cheese) but others like gruyere or comet are excellent too. Always look to Ireland if you can, for example quality cheesemakers like Teresa Roche at Kylemore Cheese (https://kylemorefarmhousecheese.com/) produces an Alpine style that would be excellent in this and Sheridans Cheesemongers (https://sheridanscheesemongers.com/) are a fantastic source either online or in one of their stores if convenient. Don’t forget that you can always grate any leftover hard cheese and freeze it (in a freezer bag is ideal) and use in recipes such as this or in something like a quiche.
For the pasta shape, this is very forgiving so again whatever you short shape you have in stock is likely to work. Penne, rigatoni, macaroni, or fusilli are all good. I used casarecce, a short Sicilian pasta shape that is very versatile with sauces.
Finally, pangrattato is an Italian fried breadcrumbs topping that keeps for ages sealed in an airtight container. You can find a recipe for it here. It’s not entirely necessary in this dish but does offer a nice crunchy texture to complement the rich sauce.
Nduja Mac and Cheese
150g cheese grated: cheddar and parmesan, any hard cheese, plus 25g extra for topping.
2 tbsp ‘Nduja
20g Chives finely chopped
1-2tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 beef tomato or other good quality large varieties, sliced thinly