I’ve finally arrived at it, my signature mac and cheese; the version I’ll henceforth whip up whenever I get that specific craving for cheesy pasta. This is a recipe I’m pretty delighted with and I’m excited to share it here and make it again myself!
It’s a mac and cheese that’s a bit more interesting than the usual. The gochujang brings umami and spice, while the broccoli adds a bit of freshness and texture, which I always think is welcome in what can be a very rich dish. Serve it up with some spring onion and sesame seeds on top and enjoy.
Gochujang is a fermented red pepper paste that is absolutely fundamental in Korean cuisine. It’s spicy, sweet, salty, and a little bit funky. You’ll find it used in Korean dishes like kimchi-jjigae, bibimbap, and tteokbokki, but that’s just to name a few – it’s super versatile!
If I’m honest, I grew to love gochujang over time, it wasn’t instant for me. I think fermented foods can sometimes be a bit of an acquired taste for some, especially if you haven’t been exposed to many funky foods growing up. But these days there always has to be a tub of gochujang in my fridge and I find myself using it more and more often.
When using gochujang you usually want to be quite sparing, as it has a very intense flavour that packs a punch. Different brands can be more or less spicy, so be aware of that too. This recipe uses about 1tbsps of gochujang per person, which is tempered a bit by all the dairy but should still give you some decent spice. I first tested this with half the amount and the result was underwhelming, so be bold!
What pasta to use
So, yes, mac and cheese would suggest the use of macaroni, but I’m an advocate of rigatoni. The cheesy sauce gets right into those large holes and you really want a pasta that holds the maximum amount possible. Macaroni or elbow macaroni wouldn’t actually be very high in my rankings of preferred pasta – penne, farfalle, or a shell pasta would be better.
At the end of the day, though, you can use whatever pasta you have in and it’ll still taste great!
Baked mac & cheese?
I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m just not fussed about baked mac and cheese. If you want some melted/browned cheese on top by all means stick it under the grill for a minute, but do not bake this. This is a stovetop recipe, which I think produces both the tastiest and quickest results.
I like my mac and cheese really saucy and the pasta to still have a bit of bite. Both can be a little tricky to achieve if you bake it, which tends to dry it out and the pasta can easily end up overcooked. Plus, baked recipes take longer than making it on the stovetop. Then again, on the stove was always how my mum made it, and mac and cheese can often be quite personal, so perhaps that’s why I have a strong preference!
Gochujang and Broccoli Mac and Cheese
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 400 ml semi-skimmed milk
- 1.5-2 tbsp gochujang
- 150 g mature cheddar grated
- 200 g rigatoni
- 1/2 head broccoli cut into florets
- pinch salt & pepper
- Boil a pot of heavily salted water and cook the rigatoni to package instructions. Add the broccoli to the same pot at the start and cook for a couple of minutes – remove with a slotted spoon and chop into small pieces. Set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in another pot on medium heat. Once melted add the flour and, stirring constantly, cook for a few minutes until the raw flour smell is gone and replaced with a more nutty one.
- Turn the heat down and start adding in the milk, a few splashes at a time. You want to very gradually add the milk to avoid lumps, so just add a little at a time and whisk to combine. I just use milk straight from the fridge – no need to pre-heat! The key to lump-free béchamel is adding the milk in little by little.
- Add the gochujang and a pinch of salt and pepper .f you're worried about spice add a tablespoon and a half of gochujang to begin with. Keep mixing until combined.
- One handful at a time, add in the grated cheddar. Stir to combine and once completely melted add in the next handful and repeat until all of the cheese is added.
- At this point you want to taste the sauce for seasoning and add more gochujang and/or cheese to taste.
- Once tasting perfect, add the chopped broccoli and drained rigatoni. Stir to combine until the pasta is completely coated in the glossy sauce.
- To serve, top with chopped spring onion (don't skip this!) and sesame seeds.