A sign of my eclectic tastes perhaps that the first entry in my cookbook recipe & wine pairing project was Butcher Shop Bolognese–chicken livers and all–and last night I was cooking from the vegetarian classic, Moosewood. Jodi was vegetarian when we first met, plus I really couldn’t afford much more than pasta, so I got my start cooking vegetarian meals. Thus no surprise that Moosewood was one of my first cookbooks. Carrying around an 11 lb baby put an end to Jodi’s vegetarian days, but still at least half of the meals I prepare are vegetarian. So finding a good wine pairing for mac and cheese is always of interest.
The Moosewood Mac & Cheese Lite lightens up this classic comfort dish using a pound of cottage cheese along with cheddar, and adding an array of sautéed vegetables. Key elements for wine pairing are the savory baked cheeses, cabbage and the dill. A full bodied white such as a chardonnay or white Rhone would work I’d say, but I was in the mood for red, thinking a medium-bodied, fruit forward one would stand up to this comfort food without overpowering it.
I recalled there was a Qupe Syrah in the cellar, one remaining bottle from a tasting this summer. I was thinking it was the single Bien Nacido version, which I thought would have the fruitiness and herbal element I sought. But alas, it was a different bottle there, the 2007 Qupe Syrah Central Coast ($17). You don’t need to feel too sorry for me, this has been one of Food & Wine’s best Syrahs under $20 for 4 years running.
The Central Coast Syrah has a nice floral bouquet, ripe cherry fruit and very silky mouthfeel–this silkiness worked well with the melted cheeses. While this simpler wine didn’t have some of the elements that would make a perfect match, it definitely had the fruitiness and body I was looking for. Definitely a thumbs up on this wine pairing for mac and cheese lite.
If you do want to match a red with this dish, take care in selecting a Syrah. Many Syrah would overpower this dish, either with a spicy element or high alcohol content. I’d think Merlot would actually be a safer bet for a red with this one; if you don’t know the taste of the Syrah you are contemplating. Many Cote du Rhones would also work well here.
And if you came to this article looking for a recipe, I’m generally not copying cookbook recipes here if I haven’t modified in some way–but there are some sites that have done so easily found with a quick search. But I do have a few good mac & cheese recipes of my own on Cooking Chat, including Mac & Gruyere Casserole with Sauteed Leek Tops and Not My Nana’s Mac & Cheese.