mac and cheese
Growing up I practically lived on macaroni and cheese. It was one of a handful of foods I actually liked, but then to make matters worse, I only liked the stuff that came in a box. When my mom tried to lure me away with the homemade variety, I’d just turn up my nose and whine about how mushy it was. What a silly child I was.
Now I’ve done a 180. Awhile back ago I was craving the boxed stuff and made it at home. The thing was, I didn’t like it. Nothing about it had changed, it was that my tastebuds had done some growing up. I must say I was a little disappointed, but then when I thought about it a little more, it was exciting to think my palette maturing. Sure it’s a decade late, but hey, I guess I’m a late bloomer. Just because I’m not into the boxed stuff anymore doesn’t mean I don’t still get a craving for some cheesy goodness every now and then.
I picked up a few cheeses from Cato Corner and brought them home to search for the perfect recipe. I found this one that called for panko crumbs over top and it sounded like just the right thing. I divided the recipe in half because the last thing I need is 20 servings of mac and cheese sitting around the house. I kind of loosely followed the recipe by using 3 different cheeses, a gouda style, a manchego and a cheddar, and a different kind of pasta called Cavatappi, which is kind of like a cross between spiral and elbow. The cheese combination made for a delightfully smooth flavor that was cheesy without being overwhelming and the pasta kept a nice firmness yet still grabbed onto the sauce well. And I have to say, I’ve never totally understood the whole breadcrumbs over macaroni thing, but the panko crumbs won me over. They added a perfect, golden crunch to contrast the creamy and rich interior.
Next time you need a little comfort, reach for this recipe to give you a little love.
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from this recipe from epicurious
makes a hefty 9×9 pan
1/4 stick unsalted butter
1 cup panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs)
1/4 pound coarsely grated Cheddar (1 1/2 cups)
For macaroni and sauce
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups 2% milk
3 cups gouda cheese, shredded
1 cup manchego
1/2 cup cheddar
1/2 pound cavatappi pasta (or spiral or elbow)
Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.
Melt butter, then stir together with panko and topping cheeses in a bowl until combined well, set aside.
2: Make sauce:
Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour.
Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes.
Stir in cheeses, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Remove from heat.
5: Make Macaroni:
Cook macaroni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni in a colander. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl.
Transfer to 9×9 baking dish.
Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.