I created this cheesy (obviously) and zesty Mediterranean version of mac and cheese for the Third Annual Macaroni and Cheese Blog Launched by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. The blog celebrates the National Cheese Lover's Day and features a brand new mac and cheese recipe every day for 30 days. Be sure to check out all 30 delicious recipes!
Before I continue, let me get some "thank yous" out of the way. I would like to thank my sister Olga of Mango Tomato for putting me in touch with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and making this project possible. I would also like to thank Carly for coming up with this fantastic name for the recipe! Originally, I was going to call the recipe "Greek Salad" mac and cheese, but "My Big Fat Greek Mac and Cheese" won me over. After all, like Carly said, if you eat too much of this, you might get fat! No worries though, the recipe is made in individual ramekins, making it easier for you to control this cheesy intake.
I want to tell you a little bit about my inspiration for the recipe. I fell in love with Greece through watching Mamma Mia! and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I have yet to travel to Greece, but every time I enjoy Greek cuisine, I can almost imagine myself on one of the islands, surrounded by the breeze of the blue waters, the white stucco of the buildings and the loud chatter of the Greek grandmas. For the recipe, I picked some of my favorite ingredients of the Greek Salad and combined it with a traditional mac and cheese. The sweet red bell peppers, Kalamata olives, peperoncini, and parsley add not only color to the mac and cheese, but also cut through the richness of the creamy cheese sauce. The crumbled pita chips top the mac and cheese just like they would a large plate of Greek Salad and add the much needed texture contrast.
What about the cheese? I knew that I was going to use Feta, and was happy to find the Black Peppercorn variety. For the base cheese I was thrilled to find Bellatini Formaggio - "similar to a cross between Feta and Parmesan cheese, this one of a kind, high moisture crumble is extremely creamy. Great for salads or melting on Greek flatbreads." How perfect is this?
And now I think you have waited long enough. Below is the recipe with the step-by-step photos. Go get in your kitchen! Opa!
My Big Fat Greek Mac and Cheese
(Makes 8 individual servings)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half and half
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups Bellatini Formaggio cheese, crumbled
2 roasted sweet red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced
1/3 cup Mezzetta Deli-Sliced Golden Green Peperoncini, chopped
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
4 ounces Athenos Black Peppercorn Feta
1 cup Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips, crumbled
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes less than instructed on the package. Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy bottom sauce pan. Sprinkle the flour into the butter, whisk to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes (this is your roux - the thickening agent for the sauce). Once golden brown and smooth, slowly whisk in half and half and simmer for 6-8 minutes, stirring often to prevent clumps.
2. Whisk in lemon zest, oregano and 2 cups of Bellatini Formaggio. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese has completely melted and the sauce is thick and smooth, about 3-4 minutes.
3. Once the sauce and the pasta are ready, combine the two in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the pita chips.
4. Butter 8 ramekins and set inside a cookie sheet. Spoon the Mac & Cheese mixture into the ramekins and sprinkle with pita chips.
***I only had 6 ramekins on hand, and baked the rest of the Mac & Cheese in a separate dish***
5. Bake the Mac & Cheese for 20 minutes and eat immediately!
What are you waiting for? Go get cooking and please share your favorite mac and cheese recipe.
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