Best macaroni ever

Macaroni cheese
Unbeatable. Delicious. Must have.

This is more than ordinary comfort food, this is so delicious you’ll want to make a party of it. Quite simply, the world’s best macaroni.

Years back, we were tired and hungry in Christchurch.  We had just finished pedalling the Otago Rail Trail* with friends Peter and Vicki.

Peter announced he was cooking his signature dish – Macaroni Wellington, because he cooked it for Vicki in 1981 when they were courting.

At first I was sceptical, as was David who has a lifelong aversion to the dish since boarding school. But Peter was immune to our concerns and set forth creating his version of macaroni cheese, which has apricots and gherkins in it.

“What? Really?”

This will really warm the cockles of your heart on these chill, late winter days.

But wait, there’s more. This is not just the bestest macaroni in the world, it is absolutely international award-winning stuff.

In 1987 it was a winning entry in the All Japan Macaroni Cooking Competition held in Tokyo.
When the two keen kiwis turned up for the cook-off, they found the wrong things had been substituted for virtually every ingredient, Peter says.

“Canned loquats instead of dried apricots, shitake mushrooms instead of field mushrooms and so on. We did bring our own ingredients luckily, including some New Zealand Dairy Board cheese. Which is a good thing because the ghastly cheese the organisers had provided was the worst ingredient fail of all.”

They cooked it up and won a prize which consisted of a huge amount of various kinds of macaroni.
“Fortunately our contacts at the NZ Dairy Board were able to sell us liberal amounts of cheese over the coming year or two, during which time we gave much of both away to local and foreign friends.”

With a history like that, how can one resist? And make no mistake, this is more than the ordinary comfort food, this is so delicious you’ll want to make a party of it.

Peter’s perfect pasta (Macaroni Wellington)
2 cups macaroni elbows
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1 cup grated cheese (New Zealand brand!)

The secret ingredients
4 – 5 garlic cloves, sliced
10 or so dried apricots, chopped small (buy the nice plump ones.)
5 gherkins, sliced and diced
A handful of fresh field mushrooms, diced
2 tomatoes, sliced
Cheese for grilling
Salt, black pepper
Dried chilli (my addition, optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

  • Cook the macaroni following the packet directions.
  • Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the flour, stirring until blended. Slowly add the milk, keep stirring. Bring to the boil until the sauce thickens, then add the grated cheese. Season to taste.
    For the taste sensation – fry garlic and mushrooms in a little pan, season and set aside.
  • Slice and dice ingredients as described, and – excluding the tomatoes and extra cheese – add everything to the macaroni and its sauce. Mix together well, put into a lasagne dish, top with cheese, black pepper and tomato slices.

Cook in the oven until it’s lovely and brown and smells wonderful.

Perty flowers not far off the rail trail…

*We cheated on the Otago Rail Trail. We used a van which dropped us at the top part of the ride, then free-wheeled down to the nearest pub selling fantastic food and cold cider. It was a great way to do it.

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