Classic Mac …… & cheese

Meals on wheels Mac

Creamy cheesy elbow macaroni hiding under a crispy crackly coating of panko.

Classic macaroni and cheese is one of those comforting dishes for a cool night.  I like to serve this with either cubed ham baked right in with the pasta, or alongside crispy chicken tenders.  Kids love it either way!

I’ve done recipes with the pasta cooked right in with the sauce in the oven; they are great, quick and easy.  But for comfort food, creamy and delicious, it is classic all the way.

You can use skim or whole milk in this recipe, either works just fine.  We used gluten free elbow pasta and it also works just great.

BREAD CRUMB TOPPING

  • 3/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning

Stir crumbs & seasoning into butter until well coated.  Set aside.

MACARONI & CHEESE

  • 1 tbsp (plus 1 tsp table salt)
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • splash Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 cups milk
  • 5 cups shredded cheese, sharp or old cheddar works best

Grease a 9×13 baking dish

Preheat oven to 350

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tbsp salt and the macaroni noodles.  Boil until just al dente and strain immediately.

Bechamel

Classic béchamel sauce ….. stir, stir, stir until it is creamy and smooth – so easy to turn into delicious cheese sauce for vegetables or this macaroni and cheese bake.

In the now empty saucepan, melt the butter, and stir in the flour, mustard, cayenne and remaining 1 tsp salt.  Whisk until mixture becomes fragrant and slightly deepens in colour, just around 1 minute.  Gradually add milk, drop in a splash of worcestershire, and keep whisking well so you don’t get any lumps and the milky mixture doesn’t stick to the pan.  Allow to come to a full boil in order for the thickening action to get going.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened and is the consistency of a thick cream.  Remove from heat, stir well and then add cheese.  Once cheese has been fully incorporated, add the macaroni noodles and combine it well.  (If you are adding ham cubes this is the time to do it)  Give the mixture a generous grind of fresh black pepper, to taste. (my grandkids aren’t crazy about pepper, so when it is for them, I’m lightly seasoning the pasta)

Mac & Cheese

Turn mixture into prepared baking dish and lightly cover with the panko crumb mixture.

Oven ready Mac

Ready for the oven, this classic dish will soon be crispy on top and creamy underneath.

Bake, just until you see the cheese mixture bubbling and the topping has browned.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Mac N Cheese

I have been making lasagne without pre boiling my pasta noodles for years now, so why did it take so long to try it with elbow macaroni?  Not sure, but I will always do it that way now!  Give this a try and let me know what you think.  

Mac n Cheese

1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided

1/4 cup flour

3 cups milk

1 tbsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp dijon mustard

1 lb (450 gms) elbow macaroni

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup panko or home made bread crumbs

2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400.  Melt 1/4 cup butter in large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add flour, and mustard,  cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute to allow the flour and butter to brown slightly.  Slowly whisk in milk until you have a smooth consistency.  Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, whisking often until you have a thin but glossy sauce. (around 10 min)  Stir in 1 tbsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper.

Toss dry, uncooked pasta with 1 1/2 cups grated cheese and put in 13 x 9 x 2″ baking dish.  Pour sauce over – do not stir – and cover with foil.  Bake for at least 20 minutes – check to see if the pasta is almost cooked through.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in fry pan, stir in garlic – saute lightly and toss with bread crumbs and panko until lightly browned.

Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over pasta, then top with bread crumb/garlic mixture.  Return to the oven for another 10 minutes or so until top is bubbling and golden brown.

This is the basic recipe – I’m pretty sure you won’t be pre-cooking your pasta before baking your own mac and cheese again!

Tonight’s version of this included:

aged white cheddar cheese and smoked gouda cheese

cubed cooked chicken

diced roasted red pepper

capers

whole grape tomatoes

The whole family loved it, and you can adapt this very easily to any leftovers or cravings in your household.