I was left with only scraps from the truffle I used for this over-the-top sponge cake and those scallops in puff pastry so what better use for those precious bits than a truffled mac & cheese? Building this simple and gratifying dish on dried pasta is fine, but please don’t let the cheese be ordinary my friends. To make an elevated Mac ‘n’ Cheese studded with black diamond shavings, un gratin de macaronis à la truffe noire, bring on the Comté, the Fontina, the Gruyère and the Appenzeller.
I don’t often talk about wine but I probably should. Since this is adult comfort food at its finest a glass of Barbaresco with hints of cherry, truffle, fennel and licorice is the wine pairing of choice. Nebbiolo-based wines tend to do best when their rich, full flavors are paired with rich foods, and they do particularly well with high flavor cheeses. The cauliflower is absolutely optional of course but it adds a bit more character to the dish. A no-brainer since all these ingredients have such a natural affinity for each other. I’m getting hungry just talking about it.
I’ve never quite understood the appeal of macaroni and cheese out of a box. Some say it’s convenient, but what’s so inconvenient about making a simple bechamel and melting freshly grated cheese in it? It took me 10 minutes to place the dish topped with breadcrumbs in the oven. Just about as long it takes to cook the pasta it takes to make the sauce. And needless to say, no truffle, no problem. This is a terrific mac & cheese on its own.
This is the last installment in the truffle trilogy where I make three recipes out of a 1 ounce black truffle from Provence. I guess what I was trying to demonstrate is that while it’s expensive, a little goes a long way. Mission accomplished?
Truffled Macaroni & Cauliflower Gratin
- Serves 6
Truffled Mac & Cheese
- 12 ounces elbow pasta
- 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (optional)
- salt, to taste
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs, preferably panko
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère
- 1 1/2 cups grated Comté
- 3/4 cup grated grated fontina
- 3/4 cup grated Appenzeller
- 1/4 ounce (or to taste) fresh black truffle, grated
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Truffled Macaroni & Cauliflower gratin:
- Heat oven to 350’F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the elbow pasta and cook until not quite al dente, about 7 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets to the pasta water and blanch for 1 minute. Drain pasta and cauliflower and set aside.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmesan, toss to combine and cook until golden. Transfer to a bowl.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining butter and whisk in the flour until smooth. Whisk in the milk and cook, continuing to whisk often, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Stir in the Gruyère, the Comté, the fontina and the Appenzeller and whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat and stir in the reserved pasta, the cauliflower and the truffle shaved with a microplane grater. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart baking dish and top with the bread crumb/parmesan mixture. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.