“By all means, break the rules, and break them beautifully, deliberately, and well.” I first read this on a horribly uncomfortable futon for a college Typography class. It’s highlighted in the textbook I still keep—Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst. One of my favorite things about life is that a book about typography can inform this White Wine Mac and Cheese recipe 12 years later. Everything informs everything. That kind of magic is real.
I’ve written about it before. You’re not supposed to cook with Moscato. It’s always omitted from the lists of white-wines-to-cook-with. I’ve tried to follow the rules, using dry white wines. I’ve also thrown out entire batches of white wine sauces, like this white wine gravy, that end up too citrusy and tangy.
For the love of better white wine sauces, I had to break the rules. Seven Daughters Moscato is my cooking white wine of choice. (I’d tell you that even if I didn’t work with them.) Moscato is sweet, sweeter than a Riesling. This particular Moscato isn’t tangy or dry, which is why I love cooking with it. It produces a beautiful, round flavor that’s so hard to pinpoint and so pleasing to eat.
Though it’s not uncommon to shy away from sweetness when composing a savory meal, my favorite combination is a harmony of spicy, sweet, and salty notes. In some cases, a bit of sweetness is necessary in cooking, especially to cut the acidity of a tomato sauce or the bitterness of a tahini sauce. And in other cases, it’s just an accessory, a very good accessory, like this White Wine Mac and Cheese, paired with a sweet gruyere, offset by a sharp white cheddar and kick of cayenne at the end.
If you’re going to break the rules, I just hope it tastes like this.
This White Wine Mac and Cheese begins with a touch of sweetness from the wine and gruyere and ends with a kick of cayenne. Don’t skip the toasted bread crumb topping if you can help it.
1 c. dry elbow noodles
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsbp. all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 c. whole milk
1/4 c. Seven Daughters Moscato
1 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 c. grated gruyere
1/2 c. grated sharp white cheese
1 1/2 tbsp. panko
1/2 tbsp. grated parmesan
drizzle of olive oil
In a small saucepan filled 2/3s full of water, bring water to a boil. Salt water liberally and add noddles. Cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, measure and prepare the remaining ingredients. Turn the oven to broil.
In the same saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in flour until smooth, and cook for 30 seconds to toast off the raw flour flavor. Slowly pour in milk, whisking to evenly combine. Add in the white wine, dijon, salt, and cayenne. Stir continually until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.
Whisk in cheese until smooth. Heat for an additional minute. Stir in pasta noodles. (It’s perfectly fine to serve as is, but the topping is just so delicious, don’t skip it if you can help it.)
Pour the macaroni in a small enamel baking dish or 2 individual ramekins. Top with the panko and parmesan, then drizzle with olive oil. Place under the broiler until the topping is golden, keeping close watch. Serve immediately. Cheers!