Saturday, February 19, 2011

Feta Mac and Cheese with Olives and Artichoke Hearts

My roots are in the Middle East so Feta cheese and Kalamata olives have always done more than just tickle my tastebuds. They have satisfied some inner longing for a culture I've never experienced except in the kitchen. Pairing the earthiness of both these ingredients with macaroni just seems natural to me. I used penne to pay homage to the noodles used in Greek Pastichio.

Feta Mac and Cheese with Olives and Artichoke Hearts (Serves 8)


1 (1-pound) box penne pasta

2 cup 2% milk

1/3 cup all purpose flour

4 tablespoons butter

4 to 7 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon pepper

4 ounces Neufchatel cheese

8 ounces (1 1/3 cups) Wisconsin feta cheese, crumbled

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

24 Kalamata olives, rinsed and sliced

1 - 15 ounce can artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered


Feta cheese and Kalamata olives both have a tendency to be salty. So it’s important that you taste your ingredients before you start this recipe. I call for rinsing the olives. This will take away some of the salt.

You can also temper the amount of salt in the feta by soaking it in milk overnight, then discarding the milk.

Heat the oven to 400°F. Cook pasta according to directions on the box. While the pasta is boiling prepare the white sauce.

Pour cold milk into a two-quart saucepan over low heat. Immediately stir in the flour until it disappears. Adding the flour into the still cold milk makes sure it won’t form lumps.

Add the butter and stir until it melts.

I like to use a silicone spatula so I can make sure the sauce doesn’t get scorched on the bottom of the pan.

Now add the garlic.

When I described this recipe to my friend at the local Greek deli, she told me “Use lots of garlic!”

I’m calling for 4 to 7 cloves. It all depends on just how much you love that tasty allium.

Add the oregano and pepper.

Add the Neufchatel and Feta to the sauce. Stir constantly until the Neufchatel is melted. The Feta will stay a bit lumpy.

Drain the pasta. Butter the casserole dish.

Pour the cheese sauce into the pasta.

Add the red pepper, olives and artichoke hearts. Mix well.

Pour the mixture into the buttered casserole.

Feta has a tendency to be dry, so bake the casserole covered for 40-45 minutes or until the edges of the pasta starts to brown.

We wrapped the finished casserole in a thick towel and trundled it off to our friends' football play-off party.

It was a big hit. We got the casserole dish back licked clean!

Find this and other fabulous mac and cheese recipes at 30 Days 30 Ways Mac and Cheese sponsored by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

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