Verdict: win

I have a new love in my life, and his name is Trader Joe's. Unfortunately it's a long distance relationship, so the last time we saw each other I tried to make the most out of it: I left with a big bottle of olive oil and a waxy, red round of smoked Dutch Gouda. I specifically visited Trader Joe's just for the Gouda. I've been obsessed with its nutty flavor on sandwiches, on plain bread, or just to nibble on.

I can't eat cheese too quickly (darn you, lactose-intolerance), and the Gouda's expiration date was around the corner, so I decided to throw together a mac and cheese. I used soy milk because that's all I had on hand, but it imparted a slightly sweet taste so I think I would've preferred regular milk. I also used way too much panko breadcrumbs to the point that I couldn't taste the sauce - I ended up scraping off as much breadcrumbs as I could. Vegetables (spinach, green onions, zucchini) and shredded chicken are a great add-in, and since the Gouda is subtle I often mixed in a teaspoon of pesto to my servings.

Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese by me
Yield: one 9x9 inch pan

2 cups uncooked macaroni
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/4 lb smoked Gouda, grated
panko breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cook macaroni in salted water following the box's directions. Drain and set aside.

While macaroni is cooking, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Add flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add milk slowly while constantly whisking, then continue to heat the sauce until thickened. Stir in cheese until melted. Remove from heat and mix in macaroni until evenly coated. Salt and pepper to taste.

Grease a 9x9 inch pan, then add the macaroni and cheese. Top with only enough panko breadcrumbs to lightly cover every inch. Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs are toasted. Serve warm.


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