Friday, January 28, 2011

Ultimate Comfort Food: Homemade Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Not that crap from a box... the real kind. I don't care if you call it "cheese and macaroni", if it involved powdered yellow crap, it isn't mac & cheese.

It has been snowy and gross outside here this week, and this recipe never fails to warm the body and the soul.

Here's my fairly easy recipe!

  • 1 lb Elbow macaroni
  • 1 lb Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3/4 cup Flour
  • 1 quart milk (I use 2% for cooking)
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp + 1tsp garlic powder, separated
  • 1 Tbsp + 1tsp black pepper, separated
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13" x 9" pan (I use cooking spray).
  2. Cook elbow macaroni according to box directions. Drain and let stand.
  3. In heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in flour, cayenne pepper, 1Tbsp garlic powder, and 1Tbsp black pepper. You have now made a roux. Continue to stir your roux over the heat for 2-3 minutes to cook off the floury taste.
  4. Whisk in the milk, eliminating all the clumps of roux. Bring almost to a boil. The sauce should thicken. This is called a bechemel sauce (aka milk sauce). Add nutmeg and stir.
  5. Switch to a wooden spoon. Working in small handfuls, stir in the cheddar cheese. Do not add more until the last handful has melted completely. Repeat. Reserve approx. 1 cup shredded cheddar for the top.
  6. Combine pasta and sauce and stir.
  7. Pour into prepared 13" x 9" baking pan. Using the back of your spoon, smooth out the surface. Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese evenly across the top.
  8. Combine panko bread crumbs, salt, and remaining black pepper and garlic powder. Sprinkle evenly over the top.
  9. Cook, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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