basic mac and cheese

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When I was making this recipe, I misread one of the quantities in the ingredients so instead of making 3 cups of elbow pasta, I made three pounds. Three pounds! We have pasta coming out our ears over there. It’s taken over the kitchen, the fridge, and Justin says if it makes its way to the bedroom we’re in real trouble. But, I mean, as far as problems go, having too much pasta on your hands is a good problem to have. I have been making all kinds of mac and cheese recipes, and I’m happy to announce most of them have turned out (stay tuned for future mac and cheese posts).

This week it seems I’ve been on an all-carb diet, and unlike past diets, I have had tremendous success sticking to it. I eat biscuits for breakfast and mac and cheese for lunch and dinner, and then I repeat it. I should probably throw in a salad in there somewhere. I feel I would eat salads more regularly if vegetables tasted more like bacon…or cheese or chocolate. Most days, I try to fit in at least one vegetable serving a day, but I have fallen off the health bandwagon and am eating all the golden mac and cheese I want. In an unrelated note, I have been looking up muumuus on Amazon…

I want to invite you to make the baked cheesy goodness that is this dish. There are a lot of steps to this recipe but they go pretty quickly. This is a basic mac and cheese recipe. If you’d like some spice, add a dash of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. You could probably also add Chipotle chile powder; just remember a little goes a long way. Regarding special equipment, this recipe calls for a food processor, but if you don’t have one, you’ll just need to cut up the bread with a knife to make breadcrumbs. Fresh or stale bread can be used. I think the breadcrumbs are a great addition because they give the dish a crunchy texture. Also, you can substitute different cheese combinations if you like. The following cheeses are recommended: Cheddar, plain or herb Jack, fontina, mozzarella, Asiago, provolone, Gruyere, blue cheese, and Comte. If you use Gruyere or blue cheese, keep these to less than one-fourth of the total cheese mix as these cheeses are very strong. Enjoy!

Whisking the flour in the butter should produce a delightful nutty aroma.

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If you don’t have a food processor, cut the bread with a knife to get breadcrumbs.

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Ingredients:

8 ounces elbow, spiral, or other short pasta

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more if you want an extra kick

6 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 pound cheese, shredded, plus two ounces to mix with bread crumbs

1 thick slice bread, torn into pieces

Directions:

Cook the pasta in a large pot in salted water over medium-high heat until the pasta is al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the flour, mustard powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Once the pasta is done, set aside. Using the same pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour mixture. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture begins to brown and has a nutty aroma, about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn.

Slowly whisk the milk and cream into the butter-flour mixture. Whisk constantly until the sauce is heated through and begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add 1 pound cheese to the sauce gradually, constantly stirring, until the cheese is melted. Add the pasta. Set aside.

Put the torn bread into a food processor and pulse on low until you have fine breadcrumbs or cut the bread into breadcrumbs with a knife. In a small bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining 2 ounces of cheese. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400  degrees Fahrenheit. Spray or butter an 8×12-inch glass or metal baking dish.

Pour the macaroni and cheese into the prepared dish and sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top. Bake, uncovered, until the breadcrumbs are toasted and the sides of the dish are bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.

Ladle the macaroni and cheese into bowls and serve.

 

Adapted from Grilled Cheese Kitchen.

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