What makes Macaroni and Cheese everyone’s favorite? Is it the tiny elbow pasta that sits effortlessly on a spoon or the velvety sauce that binds it all? Is it the quick-to-cook procedure or the comfort that comes along with it? Whatever the reason is, this pasta preparation has always managed to cheer up all of us, irrespective of the age group.
I don’t remember when or where I ate Mac and Cheese for the first time. It was definitely not my childhood meal. What I do know is that eventually like million other folks, it became my favorite too. It’s funny how something can randomly make a permanent place in one’s heart. As much as I love a light pasta salad with just a hint of parmesan on top, I can gobble up a plate full of creamy Mac and Cheese with equal pleasure and no guilt.
This grown up version is our current favorite and it’s the boozy sauce that uplifts the taste making it gourmet!
When I heard of vodka sauce for the first time, I dropped my jaw and thought the idea was bizarre. I like a vodka drink but to mix it with pasta for lunch or dinner was something that took a while for me to accept. Just how wine makes a sauce rich and more flavorful, vodka does a similar thing. And if you have never tried this sauce before, prepare it once. You might relish it as much as we did.
Typically, this vodka sauce is used in a dish called Penne alla Vodka, and as the name suggests, Penne pasta is used. However, I wanted to try the same concept with baked Mac and Cheese, with less cheese, some greens and more of the sauce. It worked!
As the pasta baked in the oven, the crumbly feta cheese melted slowly spreading its tangy taste. The Parmesan cheese on top turned golden crispy adding a crunch at every bite and the spinach leaves that ware hidden in between wilted covering itself with the sauce.
Every spoonful of the vodka Mac and Cheese was hearty and flavorful.
Vodka Mac and Cheese
for the vodka sauce
- 1-½ cup tomato puree
- ½ medium onion (very finely chopped)
- 1 clove garlic (chopped)
- ½ tablespoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- ½ cup vodka
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- salt to taste
- freshly cracked black pepper
for the mac and cheese
- 2 cups uncooked whole-wheat elbow pasta
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
for the vodka sauce
- In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add garlic and onion and sauté until it turns soft.
- Add salt, pepper, chili flakes and oregano. Give a mix.
- Now, add tomato puree and cook for 10 more minutes.
- Pour vodka and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Check for salt and add any if required.
- Add heavy cream and simmer for 10 more minutes.
- Keep the sauce aside to be used later.
for the vodka mac and cheese
- Rub some oil on the baking pan and preheat the oven to 375F.
- Boil water in a saucepan, sprinkle little salt and boil the pasta for 4 minutes.
- Mix boiled pasta with the sauce and spinach. In the baking pan, pour half of the pasta and add half of crumbled feta cheese.
- Next, pour rest of the pasta, scatter rest of crumbled feta cheese and top it with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake it for 30 to 35 minutes or until it looks golden crispy on top.