Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Baked Macaroni and Cheese {the one}

I haven't posted in forever.  I am still discovering many yummy recipes, but alas, life is just too busy to do it all.  But, I have been on the search for *the* baked macaroni and cheese recipe for years now.  I happened to have a craving for it (hey, I'm pregnant, I'm allowed) and since my husband was out of town (he has banned me from making it when he is home)  I decided the time was right to try again. I was at a friend's house and asked if she had a recipe for it and she pulled out her America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  It looked good so off I went.  I then proceeded to eat it for the next 5 days as leftovers (since I made the entire 9x13 pan and apparently my kids don't really care for it, either).  I don't know if I have ever enjoyed leftovers so much as I did these.  I looked forward to it every time.  I even had it as a snack one day just because I wanted it.  Yum.  So, of course, I made some changes based on what I had in the house, but really I held to the recipe pretty close.  I will share it as it is in the cookbook and add my changes in red to the side.  This is for my sister-in-law, Karen, who encouraged me to put it on here.  Sorry no pictures; by the time I was going to put it on here it was all gobbled up!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
serves 6-8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes (includes 25 minutes baking time)

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 lb. elbow macaroni (I used Riccioli, which I found at Costco)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1 teaspoon of water
1/4 teasppon cayenne pepper (I would maybe reduce this slightly- while I enjoyed it, my almost-3-year-old-son said it was too spicy)
6 Tabelspoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk (they noted in the recipe that this was a must- they said anything less wasn't rich enough to make a creamy sauce, but I didn't have any in the house- only 2%- and I thought it was just fine)
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound colby cheese, shredded (4 cups) (I used maybe 3/4 of a lb. of colby (that's all I had) and then supplemented with Romano cheese)
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups) (I used medium because that is what I had)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter and toss with the breadcrumbs.  Set aside. 

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.  Stir in 1 Tablespoon of salt and the pasta.  Cook until it is almost tender, but still firm.  Drain and leave in the colander.

Wipe the pot dry and add the rest of the butter (6 Tablespoons).  Melt over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic, mustard mixture and the cayenne.  Cook until fragrant, only about 30 seconds.

Stir in the flour and cook until golden about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in milk and broth.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook, whisking often until it thickens up a little (about 6 minutes).

Remove from stove.  Whisk in colby and cheddar until completely melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  (You have to taste the sauce at this point- yum!!!)  Stir in drained pasta- breaking up any clumps. 

Pour into a 9x13 baking dish.  Spinkle buttered bread crumbs evenly over the top.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling around the edges.  (Mine took less time than this, can't remember exactly, but maybe just 17 minutes or so.)  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

I thought this tasted great heated up in the microwave on subsequent days. 

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