I studied in Paris for a semester during college, and although I’ve only mentioned it once or twice here on the blog, it was an awesome and interesting experience. I had the chance to live with a French family in their Parisian apartment for four months, and absorbed all that I could about life in Europe. I toured the museums, picnicked in the gardens, ate all the food, and traveled to amazing cities across the continent (Barcelona and Rome were my favorites!). I also studied a decent amount (it was college, after all), focusing on the French language and European art history. Sounds like a pretty incredible few months, doesn’t it?! I really should write more about this adventure – and start cooking and baking more French recipes!
This story, however, is not about my time in Paris. Rather, it’s about the last few days I spent at home before departing on this journey. As maybe you can imagine, I was quite nervous: for my first solo trip overseas, and at the thought of living in a different country for an entire season. Even the idea of navigating the Parisian subway system on my own made me tense up! It didn’t help that my French was quite elementary at the time. I remember the excitement, apprehension, curiosity, and anxiety that I felt in those last few days before I headed to the airport.
By far the scariest part was being away from my family and friends, from my home and the college campus that I’d learned to love. I knew I would miss this support system, and the ease that comes with familiar surroundings, but also the small comforts, too – like my favorite foods. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a fresh-baked baguette and to start indulging in daily croissants. But during those last few days at home, all I wanted was to enjoy my familiar favorites. So I made sure to get my fill of peanut butter (beurre de cacahuète, as it’s called in France, is not readily available) and when my mom asked me what we should have for dinner on my very last night in the States, I chose good old macaroni and cheese.
In my opinion, mac & cheese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s one of the dishes that I remember most from my childhood. Sitting next to my older brother, enjoying a bowl of the pasta, while my parents bustled about in the kitchen or a babysitter watched from nearby. Occasionally, my mom would make this dish from scratch, and we loved it. This recipe is my version of that delicious treat. It’s incredibly cheesy, laden with the perfect mix of sharp cheddar, nutty gruyere, and a bit of tangy goat cheese. The pasta is boiled in milk, rather than water, so it requires only one pot and no messy draining. This actually makes the dish quicker to prepare than your typical from-the-box version – though you’d never know it from the phenomenal results! Just as mac & cheese was the homey dish that I craved on the eve of my international expedition, I now make this cheesy pasta whenever I need some good, old-fashioned comfort food. I hope that you’ll enjoy this favorite of mine, too!
One Pot Mac & Cheese
Makes 6 servings
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 pound macaroni (or other pasta)
- 8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
- 4 ounces goat or cream cheese
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Place milk and pasta in a medium pot.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and boil, uncovered, stirring regularly, until liquid has been mostly absorbed and pasta is al dente, 10-15 minutes.
- Add cheese and stir, adding more milk if necessary, until melted and a smooth, creamy sauce forms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
*Let me know in the comments below: what’s your favorite type of comfort food?*