I’ll admit it: Homemade mac ‘n cheese is new to me. I honestly never knew you could make it in the oven or even from scratch. When I was growing up we always made it from the box-either Kraft or ShopRite brand-and cooked it on the stovetop. The kind with the orange powdered cheese you add in after the macaroni is cooked. Truthfully it was not bad, but I really did not have a perspective about it; I had nothing to compare it to. It was quick, cheap and easy to make for a family.
Homemade mac n cheese: Wonderful, golden, gooey …true comfort food.
My daughters asked me if we could make it this year—Sarah had made it in “Home and Careers” (aka home ec) and liked it. Meg has the “Gourmet mac n cheese” at TGIFridays and I found a recipe online that it was based on. Boy was it complicated-sautéing the onions and bacon, straining the solids and grating multiple cheeses. It tasted good, but way too much work for a quick meal.
So, we found a basic recipe and started playing with different cheeses and amounts. Finally we found one that the three of us like (my husband does not like mac n cheese). Most of the time its only 2 of us at a time that actually make it but it seems that both daughters do enjoy the process: melting the butter and making the roué. Whisking in the milk until it thickens then melting the cheeses….its kinda interesting how it all comes together. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool once it is out of the oven—the air fills with the smell of the baked cheese and watching the cheese become gooey as it cools and thickens is almost too much to bear. But then the reward: getting to sit together and enjoy the warmth of both family and good food—totally worth the mess and the wait.
Go ahead and try it, its fairly easy to make. Make it your own by trying out different cheeses and pasta…but beware—you’ll want to make it again. Comfort food is made to be shared and enjoyed.
Barilla Cellentani, 1 lb box (or your favorite type pasta)
3 TBS butter
3 TBS flour
3 cups milk (we use 1%)*
salt and pepper to taste (start with ¼-1/2 tsp)
Cabot Seriously sharp cheddar, 8 oz, grated
Velveeta, 8 oz, cubed
Mozzarella cheese, 2-4 oz cubed**
*if you use the 4 oz mozzarella cheese add another 1/2 cup milk
**(2 oz is still smooth cheese sauce, 4 oz is more gooey and sticks together)
In a large pot fill with water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions for al dente-about 10 minutes (don’t over cook). Drain and place in a large baking dish/casserole.
Pre-heat oven to 375*F. While pasta is cooking make the sauce:
Medium heat-melt the butter then add the flour with a whisk until smooth. Gradually add in the milk, salt and pepper , whisking until smooth and starts to thicken. Add in cheeses and melt completely.
Add to cooked pasta and lightly toss to coat.
(We don’t use a topping but if you do put it on at this point—panko crumbs or bread crumbs tossed with a little melted butter)
Bake in pre-heated oven at 375* for about 15 minutes or until cheeses is bubbling throughout.
Allow to cool about 5 minutes then enjoy.