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Blue Cheese Macaroni Gratin

by Jo Pratt from In the Mood for Entertaining

Upgrade your macaroni and cheese with this gratin, loaded with blue cheese, spinach and thyme. When served individually, this dish looks really impressive.

Introduction

For a chilly evening you can’t beat this comforting, grown-up version of macaroni cheese. The tangy blue cheese and white wine in the sauce prevent it from being too stodgy or rich (and that means a dessert should definitely follow).

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Ingredients

250g macaroni
20g butter
1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
1 sprig of thyme
20g plain flour
200ml white wine
125ml single cream
150g blue cheese, such as Cashel Blue, Gorgonzola, Danish Blue or Stilton
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar), cut into strips
2 large handfuls of baby spinach leaves
olive oil, for drizzling

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Method

Start off by cooking the macaroni until tender.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the spring onions and sprig of thyme. Cook for a couple of minutes until the spring onions are softened. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so, stirring most of the time so the flour doesn’t burn.

Gradually pour in the white wine, stirring continuously. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Remove the sprig of thyme.

Thinly slice half of the blue cheese and keep to one side. Crumble, break or chop the rest and stir into the sauce. Season with just a pinch of salt as the blue cheese is naturally salty and add a good twist of black pepper. Cook until the cheese has melted.

Drain the macaroni well and mix into the sauce. Finally, stir in the red pepper and spinach leaves. Spoon the mixture into two individual shallow gratin dishes or one larger one to share. Lay the sliced blue cheese on top, add a twist of black pepper and drizzle over the surface with some olive oil.

Heat your grill to its highest setting. Place the dish or dishes on a baking sheet and grill for just about 5 minutes until the top is lightly golden and bubbling. Serve straight away just as it is or with a nice green salad.

PS… If you wanted to make this ahead of time, place the dish/dishes in the fridge and when you’re ready to eat, bake in the oven (180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas 4) for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

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