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The Spice Kitchen
by Katie Luber & Sara Engram

Ever since we discovered a version of mac and cheese that didn't require boiling the pasta first, we've been devotees of this beloved American comfort food. It's perfect for kids and crowds and has become a potluck favorite, where vegetarians are grateful for nonmeat entrees.
If you get a hint of pepperoni in this version, you're not wrong—anise and basil are the flavors that give that popular sausage its distinctive flavor. As always, feel free to come up with your own spice combinations. We like substituting fennel seed for the anise seed and tarragon for the basil.
Serves 6 to 8


    • 1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat) 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
    • 2 cups milk (not skim) 1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked
    • 1 teaspoon ground mild chile pepper 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
    • 1 teaspoon anise seed 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
    • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon basil
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Blend the cottage cheese, milk, chile pepper, anise seed, mustard, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, and pasta. Grease an 8-inch square or round baking dish. Pour the pasta mixture into the dish. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.

While the macaroni and cheese is baking, mix the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and basil in a small bowl. Add the oil and toss to combine. Remove the macaroni and cheese from the oven and carefully stir. Evenly sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the macaroni and cheese. Return the macaroni and cheese to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until browned. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

• Substitute fennel seed for the anise seed and tarragon for the basil.
• Add a teaspoon of mild chile pepper and omit the breadcrumb topping.


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