Archive for February 16th, 2018

Lidl + Travel = Pasta Friday!

February 16, 2018

An impending trip always prompts some interesting meals as I try to use up vegetable odds and ends and other perishables.  Tonight’s fridge exploration resulted in a few broccoli crowns; some medium cheddar; the last of some Iberico ham; and a quart of milk that needed a purpose.

So what does Lidl have to do with it?  Last weekend I went to Lidl for the first time.  This is a dangerous, and somewhat frustrating, place for me.  Frustrating because I can’t possibly do the entirety of my grocery shopping there.  I have too many brand loyalties.  Some things Lidl sells only in larger quantities than I need. (I’m looking at you ramen noodles and green onions).  Some things I need, Lidl doesn’t carry at all.  (Um, decaf coffee, please)!

For me Lidl is an expensive place.  That’s the dangerous part. I bought all kinds of stuff I didn’t need.  It’s an amazing place to shop for European meats and cheeses.  Thus the Iberico ham.  I also picked up some lovely feta and Irish butter at a very good price!  Lidl also has lots of “special” items that are advertised at a special price with a sign that says something like “get it before it’s gone!”  I’m a sucker for that stuff.  So I also came home with some frozen scallops.  (What?!  I’ve never bought such a thing in my life).  I bought some truffle oil.  Now, that was a good deal and I do really like it.  I bought a package of orecchiette pasta with a seasoning packet attached.  Ridiculous.  I never buy seasoning packets except for taco seasoning!  So, I went in to look around and pick up eggs and milk.  I came out $42 later with my eggs and milk and a lot of other stuff.  Which brings us to tonight’s dinner.


It’s Pasta Friday!  I didn’t want to do anything too complicated.  I did want to use the broccoli and the ham rather than toss them before I leave town.  I had milk and cheese.  You see where I’m going with this.  Macaroni and cheese with some extras!  Alas, no macaroni.  Searching the cabinet – ditalini? Nope, too small to have with the broccoli.  Farfalle?  Nope, the cheese sauce kind of falls off.  Spaghetti?  Um, no.  Wait!  I have a bag of fancy orecchiette – little ears perfect for holding cheese sauce!  The seasoning packet is in the cabinet and likely to make an appearance mixed in olive oil and served with bread.

I thought we’d discussed cheese sauces in the last few weeks so I didn’t take any pictures, but I was wrong!  I’ll have to do another cheese sauce soon and do a better job.  There’s a lot of satisfaction in being able to make a good cheese sauce.  Here’s the basic idea.

Make a roux:  melt butter; whisk in flour; whisk in a small amount of milk;  whisk in a little more milk; whisk in a little more milk.  Getting it?  A little milk at a time, whisking constantly.  The whisking will make sure you don’t have lumps.  Bring the heat up enough to make the sauce bubble. This is how it thickens.  If it gets too thick, whisk in a little milk.  If it gets too thin, let it bubble until it thickens.

Tip If you put in too much milk and it won’t thicken enough by bubbling, make a slurry and add it in.  A slurry is a little flour mixed with a little milk or water.  That’s how you can add more flour and not end up with lumps.

Salt and pepper to taste.  That’s a white sauce.  To your white sauce add grated cheese.  I used medium cheddar tonight.  I like sharper cheddar so I have no idea why I even have it.  To add a little more tang I added some dijon mustard.  YUM!

Tip Grate your own cheese.  The pre-grated cheese is fine for topping tacos, but not for melting.  Manufacturers have to use an additive to keep the shredded cheese from sticking together in the package.  The coating keeps the cheese from melting smoothly.  You’ll have little uneven dots in your sauce where the cheese didn’t quite melt.  That might be a trade you’re willing to make to avoid having to grate your own cheese.  Fair enough.

For the pasta and broccoli save yourself the trouble of dirtying two pans.  Just make sure you have a large enough pot and enough water to accommodate both.  Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta.  When the pasta is about half done add the broccoli.  Drain them together and return them to the cooking pot.

Add your cheese sauce and fold it in.  Folding instead of stirring will help keep the broccoli whole.  Unless you’ve overcooked it, which is what happened to me.

You’ll see below that the broccoli does have plenty of whole pieces, but there’s also an awful lot of teeny tiny floret pieces spread throughout.  I underestimated the time it would take for the pasta to cook and I added the broccoli too early.  In a cheese sauce, where you’re going for something pretty smooth anyway, it’s not a big deal.  In a pasta primavera or something light like that it would be a bigger problem.

I just heated the ham in a pan until it started to crisp and chopped it.  Add the ham at end.  Save some for the top.  It just looks nice.  Or leave it out if you want a vegetarian meal.

So that’s how Lidl + travel produced my pasta Friday this week!  Hard to beat macaroni and cheese no matter how you make it!