Tahini mac and cheese (Photo/Micah Siva)
Tahini mac and cheese (Photo/Micah Siva)

Creamy tahini mac and cheese warms a stormy winter night

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

There’s nothing more comforting than homemade macaroni and cheese. While boxed macaroni reigned supreme in our household when I was growing up, oven-baked, roux-based mac and cheese was saved for special occasions.

The trick to making mac and cheese at home lies in the roux: An equal mixture of fat and flour thickens the sauce. I cook the roux for 3 to 4 minutes until golden, ensuring the flour is fully cooked. I also add warm liquid (not cold!) to the roux so the ingredients are easy to incorporate.

This version of macaroni and cheese uses creamy tahini, my favorite ingredient in sweet and savory dishes. The subtle nutty flavor pairs with the creamy, salty cheese and smoked paprika for an irresistible winter-time dinner.

Tahini Mac and Cheese

Serves 8-10

  • 1 lb. dried pasta (I use cavatappi.)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 cups whole milk, warmed
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ½ tsp, black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • ½ tsp, smoked paprika
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups shredded gruyere cheese
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta to al dente, approximately 7-8 minutes. Drain, and set aside in a large bowl.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the flour, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add the warm water, milk, tahini, black pepper, nutmeg and smoked paprika, whisking to combine. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until thickened. Add the cheddar and gruyere cheeses, whisking until melted.

Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta, and transfer to the greased baking pan.

Top with parmesan cheese and sesame seeds. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, or until golden.

Micah Siva
Micah Siva

Micah Siva is a registered dietitian and trained chef in San Francisco. She develops modern Jewish recipes inspired by her grandmother, with a plant-forward twist. See her recipes and photography at Nosh with Micah.