Don't be dreary in making staple dish: Get creative with pasta, cheese

Book festival author dishes on ultimate comfort food - mac and cheese
2013-02-20T00:00:00Z Don't be dreary in making staple dish: Get creative with pasta, cheeseKristen Cook Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Who knew?

You can make mac and cheese in paella form, complete with shrimp and Spanish chorizo, or turn it into a quasi breakfast-for-dinner dish with a maple-soaked waffle topping, so says the Cheese Whiz herself, author Laura Werlin.

Werlin, a James Beard Foundation Award-winning writer, penned "Mac & Cheese, Please" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $16.99), and it's her sixth cheese book. She knows her Asiago from her Emmantaler.

The small-format cookbook offers enticing color photos of the cheesy dish. It's a fun, breezy read and quite creative with its 50 recipes. The eight chapters include classic recipes, those with veggies, lighter variations and full-on party versions, like a pizza mac with pepperoni, of course, and that paella that also features Spanish blue cheese, goat cheese and Manchego.

An opening primer on cheeses explains which types melt best and what qualities they'll impart.

Werlin will be a featured presenter March 10 in the culinary tent during the Tucson Festival of Books, which runs March 9-10.

And since Purim, the Jewish holiday that involves sharing a festive meal, starts at sundown Saturday, we're offering a kugel recipe from her book.

Ellen's Noodle Kugel

Serves: 12 to 16

• 2 cups cornflakes, lightly crushed

• 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 5 teaspoons kosher salt

• 1 pound extra-wide egg noodles

• 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut in pieces

• 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

• 6 large eggs

• 16 ounces regular or low-fat cottage cheese

• 2 cups sour cream

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

• 1 cup golden raisins or dried cherries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking dish or pan. Set aside.

For topping, mix together the cornflakes, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

Fill a 6- to 8-quart pot about three-quarters full with water and add 4 1/2 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a boil and add the noodles. Cook until tender but firm, about 7 minutes. Drain well and return the pasta to the warm pot. Add 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter, tossing until the noodles are well coated.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the cream cheese, and eggs in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the cottage cheese, sour cream, vanilla, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat until well incorporated. Stir in the raisins, if desired.

Add the egg mixture to the noodles in the pan and stir until well mixed. Spoon into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the topping. Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the kugel is set and the topping and edges are golden brown. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

If you go

• What: Fifth annual Tucson Festival of Books.

• When: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. March 9-10.

• Where: University of Arizona campus. Attendance and parking are free.

• What: About 450 authors, book discussions, workshops and literary activities for the entire family - including the culinary stage, which will feature nationally recognized and local top chefs and beverage professionals.

• More information: tucsonfestivalofbooks.org

Contact Kristen Cook at kcook@azstarnet.com or 573-4194.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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