When you think of macaroni and cheese you might feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This is a recipe that your grandma probably made from scratch. Today we just pull out a box and make what they call mac and cheese with processed cheese product and pasta by adding just a little bit of butter and milk. This is totally different from the macaroni and cheese recipe your grandma made because it is far from luscious creamy casserole you loved as a kid.
Sharp cheddar is the cheese of choice when making mac and cheese but other cheeses can be used. Use mild cheddar for a milder taste or use Swiss or Provolone cheeses. Other things can be added to the dish to make it a whole meal. Cube some cooked ham and combine it in the recipe and some shredded chicken will really make a meal. Use some frozen broccoli or cauliflower that has been thawed and drained in the mix. Other things you can do to make an interesting combination is to add some drained diced tomatoes or try some frozen chopped spinach that has been drained well. You may get your kids to eat vegetables easier this way.
Those that want to make that old comfort food just need to stick to elbow macaroni, some milk and butter with just a few more ingredients. Some people like a real thick mac and cheese that can be cut into squares and they stay that way on the dish. Other people like it a little more creamy so it spreads all over the plate once you dish it out of the casserole. Plain mac and cheese is great but even better when a topping of either breadcrumbs or crunch potato chips are put on top before it is baked. Try it several different ways to see which way will be the favorite of your family.
Start by boiling one half of a pound of elbow macaroni in some water. While it is boiling take a large sauce pan and melt 3 tablespoons butter in the bottom. Add 3 tablespoons flour and 1 teaspoon dry mustard to the butter and start whisking and keep going for about 3 minutes. By now the macaroni should be al dente and you can take it off the stove and drain it well. The mixture in the sauce pan is the substance that will make your cheese sauce thicken and is called a rue. Once the rue is smooth and creamy with no lumps you are ready to start the next step.
Once the rue is smooth add three cups of milk and whisk carefully at first until it all becomes incorporated with the rue. Use evaporated milk to make the dish creamier. Remove about one half cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese from a 12 ounce package and set aside while you whisk the rest into the sauce pan until the cheese melts. Break and egg in a small bowl. Scramble it up well then take a little bit of the cheese mixture and put in the bowl with the egg whisking rapidly while you do so. Add a little more and whisk it in. Pour the egg mixture into the cheese mixture and incorporate it well. If you just drop the egg in without doing this first the egg will scramble and you will have lumps of egg in your mac and cheese.
Add a teaspoon or so of paprika if desired to give a bit of flavor to the dish. Make sure to taste the sauce and make sure it tastes good. It may need salt and pepper although cheeses usually contain enough salt already. Add the drained macaroni and incorporate it into the sauce. Pour into a well greased two quart sized casserole dish.
A topping can be made by melting 3 tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan. Once it melts add 1 cup of fine bread crumbs. Panko breadcrumbs are the best because they are so crunchy. Crumble this mixture on top of the casserole and pop it in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 30 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for a full five minutes before serving. This will give the sauce enough time to thicken up and hold everything together. Your kids will ask for this over and over again and if you take it to a casserole dinner you will not have any left overs to take home.
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