I adore whole wheat elbow macaroni. It seems like such happy food, and it makes me feel like a kid again - even though I didn't actually have elbow macaroni as a child, because my mother didn't like it for some reason, but I always imagined it was the sort of food children would love. I think my hypothesis about kids and elbow macaroni is true, too - the first time I fixed chicken Parmesan for my friend Chalete's adorable, sweet, wonderful 5 year old son, who's usually very shy about trying "new" dishes, I served it over whole wheat elbow macaroni and he inhaledtwo whole plates, roasted garlic and chiffonaded ribbons of fresh basil and all.
I especially adore the very grown-up flavors in the Macaroni and Paneer Cheese from Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen. Lisa is an incredibly talented vegetarian chef, able to delight the palate with Indian dishes, Indian-fusion dishes, and any other cuisine imaginable! Every time I visit Lisa's blog I find myself bookmarking a recipe, from curries to scones! As soon as I read Lisa's recipe for Macaroni and Paneer Cheese I did a little dance of delight, pressed the print button, and could hardly wait until Friday evening to prepare it for our supper! Well, silly me even took a study break Friday afternoon to go grocery shopping, and still managed to come home with another 5 lbs of mozzarella (yep, I went to the bulk foods store again!) and no paneer. Sigh. Thus began the emergence of a variation on Lisa's gorgeous original. While I fully intend to fix Lisa's recipe properly very soon, the results of my experimentations were so scrumptious that I absolutely had to share them, with gratitude to Lisa for the inspiration!
2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni 2 T olive oil 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds 3 giant handfuls baby spinach leaves 1 large tomato, chopped 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp Cayenne 1 tsp paprika 1 1/2 cups grated part-skim mozzarella
~ Cook the whole wheat macaroni according to package directions, reserving 3/4 cup cooking water before draining the rest of the water, rinsing the macaroni, and setting it aside. ~ In a large skillet over medium heat, stir-fry the mustard seeds until they begin to pop. ~ Add the spinach, a handful at a time, allowing each handful to wilt as you stir in the next handful. ~ Once the spinach has wilted, add the tomato, salt, Cayenne, and paprika, and stir just until heated through. ~ Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the macaroni, reserved cooking water, and mozzarella cheese. Continue to stir just until the mozzarella is melted... Then serve warm...