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Stephanie Johnston of Seaford

Stephanie Johnston poses with the macaroni and cheese

Stephanie Johnston poses with the macaroni and cheese she made at her home in Seaford. (Nov. 22, 2010) Photo Credit: David Pokress

A lawyer for a medical malpractice firm, she lives in Seaford and is engaged to be married.

What do you like best about being in the kitchen? If I've had a long day, I like to come home and chop vegetables. It relaxes me. I can be creative. I daydream about menus.

Can you tell us your earliest memory in the kitchen? I grew up always in the kitchen with Mom or Dad. I think I started at 3 or 4, making pancakes. Both of my parents cooked. My mom, mainly Italian. My father is half Greek, so he put in some Greek food, too.

Do you have any special memories about holidays? Yes. Every Easter we made manicotti. We started when I was in the third grade. I would make the shells with the crepe maker, and my sister made the filling. We still do it. We can't have Easter without it.

How different is your cooking from your parents'? My dad loved tons of garlic, and I don't. So I learned how to modify my cooking.

The recipe you're sharing is a modification, right? It's a take on a Barefoot Contessa recipe. She used Gruyère, which is too strong for me, so I substituted fontina. Also, she adds the cheese to a béchamel sauce and takes if off the heat; I keep cooking it into a thick cheese sauce, which keeps the pasta moist. It also has red bell peppers because I love them.

What about healthy cooking? I'm very much into healthy, lighter cooking. We changed to turkey sausage for sausage and peppers, and I've switched to turkey bacon and never gone back.

Got a favorite cuisine? I guess I would say Italian-American, although now I'm learning Mexican. My fiancé is half Mexican. He grew up with his mother, who is from Mexico City. I'm learning from her.

A favorite restaurant? Piccola Bussola in Westbury. It's family-style Italian - good for big gatherings.

MACARONI AND CHEESE

1 stick butter

1 cup flour

3 1/2 cups milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper

1 8-ounce block Fontina cheese, grated

1 8-ounce block Cheddar, grated

1 pound cooked pasta (penne, elbows, spirals)

1 bell pepper cut into small dice

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Italian-style bread crumbs

Butter or olive oil for topping

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium-size pot melt the stick of butter, add the cup of flour and whisk until smooth. Add the milk and whisk any clumps that form. Season with salt, pepper and paprika or cayenne pepper.

3. Heat mixture on medium heat to just under a boil or until it thickens (when the mixture coats the outside of a wooden spoon). Once it thickens begin to add the grated Fontina and Cheddar cheeses, a handful at a time. (Add a handful and whisk and repeat until most of the cheese has been used. Save some for the topping.)

4. Put the cooked pasta and diced bell pepper in an ovenproof casserole dish. Then add the cheese mixture to the pasta and mix until all the pasta is coated evenly with the sauce.

5. Sprinkle the rest of the grated fontina and Cheddar on top of the pasta. Then sprinkle bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese on top. Dot with butter or drizzle with olive oil for a crispy top.

6. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread crumbs are golden brown. Makes 6 servings as a side dish.

 

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