Orzo (mac) and Cheese
By: Eleni Saltas
I eat mac and cheese in the rain. I eat mac and cheese on a train. I eat mac and cheese from the box! I eat mac and cheese in my socks. I eat mac and cheese in my house and I don’t mind sharing with our guest, a mouse.
Yes, I do like mac and cheese! And I would eat mac and cheese in Greece. That’s if I could find it!
You’d think that Greece, a country known for its bountiful cheese varieties would have a version of a creamy pasta and cheese dish. Sure, cheese is topped on makaronia, stuffed into pies, and baked into the classic pastitsio. But when I search Greek menus for something downright ooey gooey, it’s nowhere to be found.
So, I present my version of an ooey gooey Greeky-style mac and cheese. Instead of the standard elbow macaroni or ziti pasta types, I use orzo (kritharaki) to keep the recipe as Greek as can be. Instead of the cheeses sticking to the pasta, orzo will absorb the flavors of the pot. In the pot goes three cheeses: Gruyere, white cheddar and feta, plus lots of milk and creams. This big three combination, plus mizithra on top will guarantee you’ll be wanting to eat this dish absolutely anywhere and with anyone. On a train. In a box. With a mouse. Or share it with your niece in Greece. Orzo and cheese is here to please.
1 pound orzo (kritharaki)
Salt, for the pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces Sharp white cheddar, shredded (after shredded it should measure about 2 ¾ cup)
5 ounces Gruyere, shredded (after shredded it should measure about 2 cups)
½ cup crumbled feta
For the cheese sauce:
¼ cup unsalted butter
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dried oregano, to taste
Grated mizithra, for the topping
Step by Step Instructions
Add water to a large pot, add a generous amount of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the orzo according to the directions on the package. Once ready, drain, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and set aside.
Meanwhile, make your cheese sauce. Melt butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic, plus a dash of oregano and pepper and cook slightly to brown the garlic. Add the flour and whisk well for one to two minutes. Slowly add the milk in small batches. Be sure to stir consistently so the mixture doesn’t lump up. Once the milk is all used up, stir in the heavy whipping cream and again stir constantly. Your mixture should be smooth and thick, so be patient with this step.
Turn the heat to low and add your cheeses: white cheddar, Gruyere and feta. Whisk until the cheese is melted. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Add the cooked orzo to the pot and stir until the sauce is evenly mixed in.
You can serve as is as a stovetop orzo and cheese. If so, top with grated mizithra and serve. OR, my favorite way is to transfer the pot to a baking dish, sprinkle the top with grated mizithra , and broil for 5-7 minutes.
Serve warm and garnish with chives if desired.
Shred your own cheese! The cheese that already comes pre shed makes it hard to melt