Down with a cold and confined to bed, I was dreaming of something comforting all day like a mac and cheese or a chowder. After finally getting down from bed, a raid of the fridge revealed a sad lack of vegetables, so pasta was the de facto choice. There are no frozen treats handy here, like stouffer's or AMy's mac and cheese, so I prepared myself to slave some over the kitchen stove, telling myself the heat and steam would only help my cold. I had wanted to try the Amul Gouda cheese for a long time, but hesitated since most stores don't have any refrigeration that lasts 24 hours and who knows what happens during the power cuts? The same applies to buying any expensive imported cheeses. But I had finally taken the plunge this weekend and bought some of the Gouda. A simple cheesy sauce with bowties seemed to be a good test run for the cheese.
The pasta or the cheese is of course just a 'method' as Rachael Ray so often says. You can use any pasta on hand, made from anything. You can also use any cheese you want or any ready made blend you may have. I think I remember one '30 minutes' episode where Rachael made a sauce with smoked gouda and added chipotle peppers. That must definitely have been the inspiration for my sauce, although I used simple or unsmoked gouda and had no chipotle peppers on hand. The small voice in my head that kept screaming 'what, no veggies ????' was pacified by adding some chopped olives and tomatoes. Herb De Provence, my favourite spice blend from the 365 brand, gave this a rosemary intensive flavour. You can of course use any dry or fresh herbs like basil, oregano etc.
The recipe is as follows -
5 cups dry bowtie pasta
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 chopped medium onions
1 tsp Herb de Provence
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1.5 cups milk any kind
1.5 cups vegetable stock or water
2-3 tsp flour
2 cups grated gouda cheese ( ~ 200 g)
salt to taste
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 cup sliced/chopped olives
2 small tomatoes chopped or 1 cup grape tomatoes
1) Fill a large pot with water and set on one stove to boil. After the water starts boiling, add salt liberally and add dry pasta. I used roughly 5 cups or half of 500g of Barilla Bowtie pasta. ANy brand or type can be used here. ROtini will also be good for this sauce.
2) Chop 2 medium onions and finely chop the garlic.
3) Heat about 2 TBsp of olive oil in a pan and add the onions. Sautee till they are softened without burning. Add the garlic and let it change color slightly but take care that it does not burn.
4) Add 2-3 tsp all purpose or white wheat flour to the pan. I have used ordinary atta or wheat flour in a bind, but it does give a more earthy taste. Stir the flour into the onions and garlic on a low heat. After frying for 3-4 minutes, add 1 cup of stock and one cup of milk. Keep stirring so that no lumps are formed.
5) Once the sauce thickens, guage the thickness and add some water or milk if you need it thinner.
6) Meanwhile keep an eye on the pasta, and after 10-12 minutes check if it is just cooked. Drain and wash with cold water to stop cooking.
7) After the sauce looks cooked, add the seasonings -- peppers, salt, herb de provence or other herb mixture and nutmeg. Stir and let it bubble to absorb the flavours. Add the chopped or sliced olives at this point. Also add roughly chopped tomatoes or whole grape tomatoes. You should be able to see the tomatoes. We do not want them to dissolve in the sauce.
8) Add the grated cheese and stir until it is incorporated into the sauce.
9) Add the cooked pasta to the pan and mix everything. Let it all simmer for 5 minutes so that some sauce is absorbed into the pasta.
10) Serve hot with some pepper sprinkled on top with crusty bread to mop up the sauce :)
You can add a whole lot of veggies in the beginning along with the onion -- mushrooms, coloured peppers, spinach, steamed broccoli, zucchini - the list is endless. This was a very rich treat that made me drowsy, so I am going back to the land of dreams.
Oh yes, the Amul gouda cheese gets a lot of points from me. Though I am not a big cheese fan, it did have a different flavour, and was slightly bitter and sharp. Tasting something like this in India was very welcome, after all the waxy looking and salty 'processed cheeses' that seem to be omnipresent. This cheese did Not taste like the good old 'cheese cubes' and hence seems promising. Costing around 90Rs for a 250 g wheel, it also does not break the bank.
Have you ever tried this kind of sauce, or this cheese? What is your favourite comfort food when you are ill?