This recipe for Blue Cheese Macaroni Gratin comes from Jo Pratt's In the Mood for Entertaining. I love Macaroni Cheese, both the traditional version and varieties with a bit of twist. This definitely falls into the latter category with the inclusion of blue cheese, wine, roasted peppers and spinach.
In her recipe notes Jo describes this dish as not being too stodgy or rich. Hmm.....I'm not sure you can say that about any dish that includes pasta (and plenty of it), cheese and cream. Not that I'm complaining mind - if you're looking for a hearty, warming dinner then this definitely ticks all the right boxes. It provides the comforting carb-richness of your usual macaroni cheese but with an extra hit of flavour from the blue cheese and pepper and a bit of balancing greenery from the spinach. For me it didn't quite beat the 5 star fabulousness of Delia's Souffled Macaroni Cheese but I still enjoyed it very much and will definitely make it again.
Blue Cheese Macaroni Gratin
(adapted from In the Mood for Entertaining by Jo Pratt)
1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
1 sprig of thyme
20g plain flour
200ml white wine
125ml single cream
150g blue cheese, such as Cashel Blue, Gorgonzola, Danish Blue or Stilton
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar), cut into strips
2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
olive oil, for drizzling
1) Start by cooking the macaroni until tender. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the spring onions and sprig of thyme. Cook for a couple of minutes until the spring onions are softened. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so, stirring most of the time so the flour doesn't burn.
2) Gradually pour in the white wine, stirring continuously. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Remove the sprig of thyme.
3) Thinly slice half the blue cheese and keep to one side. Crumble, break or chop the rest and stir into the sauce. Season with a small pinch of salt and a good twist of black pepper. Cook until the cheese has melted.
4) Drain the macaroni well and mix into the sauce. Finally, stir in the red pepper and spinach leaves. Spoon the mixture into two individual shallow gratin dishes or one larger one to share. Lay the sliced blue cheese on top, add a twist of black pepper and drizzle a little olive oil over the surface.
5) Heat the grill to the highest setting. Place the dish or dishes on a baking sheet and grill for about 5 minutes until the top is lightly golden and bubbling. Serve straight away just as it is or with a nice green salad.
This dish can be made ahead of time. Just place the dish/dishes in the fridge and when you're ready to eat, bake in the oven (180c/fan 160c/gas mark 4) for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.