Grace Costa’s South Indian-Style Mac and Cheese recipe comes from the new cookbook Readers’ Best Recipes and the Stories Behind Them. Do not fear the garlic or spices required in this recipe. The result is a rich, flavorful, creamy mac and cheese, with a hint of mystery that most people will enjoy. Guests will wonder what makes this dish taste so good!
This recipe came from Grace Costa, my late mother-in-law. She was raised in Kerala in South India, commonly referred to as “the spice coast of India,” one of nine children of a Syrian Christian minister. Entertaining parishioners over meals was a way of life growing up. She became an incredibly accomplished woman, the first trained industrial nurse in all of India, but she always loved to cook. No family gathering, church event, or community event would be complete without a contribution from her kitchen. She cooked by taste and could salvage even the most terrifying culinary disaster with a few quick instructions. - John Pierce, Dublin, New Hampshire
Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 2-quart casserole.
For ginger garlic paste: Ginger garlic paste provides the background flavor of many South Indian dishes. It can be purchased at Indian grocery stores or made at home by using one-third fresh garlic to two-thirds fresh ginger by weight. Process in a food processor, using as little water as necessary to make a paste. Refrigerated, it will keep for at least a week.
For topping: In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, Asiago, and paprika. Set aside.
Cook macaroni al dente, according to package directions. Drain and put into prepared casserole.
For sauce: In another bowl, combine garam masala, salt, pepper, turmeric, and cayenne. Set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger garlic paste as butter is melting. (If added to hot butter, paste will spatter wildly; heat slowly in melting butter.) Add spice mixture and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes over medium heat. Add milk slowly, stirring constantly until mixture boils for at least 1 minute, or until incorporated. Remove from heat and fold in shredded cheese.
To assemble: Pour sauce over cooked macaroni and stir gently to combine. Sprinkle with bread crumbs mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.