Growing up, we didn’t have homemade macaroni & cheese. We didn’t like it – instead, we begged mom for the Kraft kind in the blue box, which I’m sure pained her. I’d like to think that my newfound appreciation for homemade mac & cheese shows just how much I’ve matured.
The beauty of mac & cheese is you can make it almost any time, if you have cheese, butter, milk and some sort of short noodle. Jesse made this the other night with leftover rigatoni noodles, which I would highly recommend, along with penne or anything else hollow to catch all the oozing cheese. Other items we already had: some cheddar cheese, Parmesan, 1% milk and unsalted butter. Oh, and some bread I made.
Ah-mazing. Sharp cheddar cheese is my friend – but if you have gruyere and fontina, all the better. He also added chipotle chilies in adobo, which gave it a spicy, smoky flavor. Finally, breaking my claim that melted cheese is the only acceptable crust, he ground up nice bread to become crumbs that he sprinkled on top, along with some paprika. See how liberal you can be with this recipe? No wonder mothers have been making it for ages.
The leftovers are long gone and I’m still wishing we could have some more. And to my dear friend Cari, yes, it is even better than the frozen Beecher’s mac & cheese we ate when you were here (that stuff is crack in the frozen-food aisle).
J-Mac & Cheese
For the topping:
- 3-4 slices of sandwich bread
- 1/4 c. grated Parmesan
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
For the pasta:
- 1 pound pasta (penne, rigatoni, etc.)
- 8 oz. cheese (we used sharp cheddar, but I would also recommend some combination of gruyere and fontina), grated
- 2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 tsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsp flour
- 1 1/2 c. milk (or heavy cream)
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1-2 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
Grind bread in food processor until crumbed, then mix with Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat oven to 500 degrees. Bring large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and handful salt and cook until very al dente, still with a bite. Meanwhile, mix the cheeses in a big bowl and set aside.
Melt butter in small saucepan over medium low, whisk in flour for 30 seconds, then whisk in milk until no lumps remain. Increase heat to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce to medium and simmer 1 min until it becomes a thickish white sauce. Stir in 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.
Drain pasta, leaving slightly wet. Pour pasta on top of the cheese, then pour on the cream mixture. Cover immediately and let stand for 3 minutes. Working from the bottom (cheeses) up, stir until cheeses are melted and mixture is thoroughly combined. Add chipotles to combine. Transfer to a baking dish, 13×9 inch, and sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, pressing down a little. Sprinkle with paprika as desired.
Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 7 min. Serve immediately, or let it cool a bit and then dive in. Melted cheesy goodness…
This is absolutely comforting and good for a crowd – or just yourself. Enjoy, friends! xoxo