What’s more comforting than homemade mac and cheese? Only a handful of dishes I consider in the comfort food category for myself. I am a big fan of mac and cheese, homemade that is. Sure, I’ll take a nibble of my husband’s Kraft mac and cheese when he makes it, but it just doesn’t do it for me. I haven’t made it in awhile because after two attempts at two different recipes (one Kraft one and the other a Paula Deen), neither came out all that tasty and the husband didn’t like them at all. Thus begun my search for a classic mac and cheese dish. My criteria were for it to have a breadcrumb/butter topping, need to be baked, just use cheddar, and have no other random ingredients like Ritz crackers, potato chips, bacon (recipes I’ve seen out there). Do you know finding a basic baked mac and cheese recipe was one of the hardest things I had to do?
After exhausting every food website I could think of, I turned my attention to my own bookshelf. Surely, I could find a recipe there. And folks, we had a winner! Ding ding ding!! I went with the recipe from one of my go-to books, The Joy of Cooking. It had all the components I wanted.
Variations….I used only cheddar cheese and I did not include the onion. I also doubled the recipe as you can see from the picture. Overall, this was pretty good. I think the baking part dried it out a little bit. Especially, day two, after being refrigerated and reheated again. I’d actually consider making this again and NOT baking it and not including the breadcrumb topping. The cheese sauce made on the stovetop was so incredibly delicious, I could eat that mixed in with the macaroni just like that.
Overall rating – 3.5 stars
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
4 to 6 main-course servings; 8 to 10 side-dish servings
An especially good rendition of a timeless classic (opposite). The sauce can be made ahead and blended with just-cooked noodles before baking, or the entire casserole can be assembled a day ahead of time.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 1½-quart deep baking dish.
Bring to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan:
6 cups water
1½ teaspoons salt
Add and cook just until tender:
2 cups elbow macaroni (8 ounces)
Drain and remove to a large bowl. Have ready:
2¼ cups grated sharp Cheddar or Colby cheese
Melt in a large saucepan over medium-low heat:
2 tablespoons butter
Whisk in and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Gradually whisk in:
2 cups whole or skim milk
½ medium onion, minced
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
Simmer gently, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in two-thirds of the cheese. Season with:
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Stir in the macaroni. Pour half of the mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese. Top with the remaining macaroni and then the remaining cheese. Melt in a small skillet over medium heat:
1 tablespoon butter
Add and toss to coat:
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni. Bake until the breadcrumbs are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE (REDUCED-FAT)
Prepare Baked Macaroni and Cheese, left, using skim milk instead of whole milk and substituting one 8-ounce package Neufchâtel cheese for the Cheddar cheese. Cut the Neufchâtel into 1-inch cubes and add it to the sauce all at once before seasoning with salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Copyright © 2000 by Simon & Schuster Inc., The Joy of Cooking Trust and The MRB Revocable Trust