The Food Lover’s Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese with bits of Ham (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Who doesn’t love Macaroni and Cheese? Although I don’t make it often, The Food Lover’s Mac and Cheese has been a homemade staple on my menu. With a list of stir-in additions, you can change this dish to meet your needs. And you might get your kids to eat more vegetables if you add them to this mac and cheese!

The Food Lover's Favorite Mac and Cheese with a side of Steamed Broccoli (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
The Food Lover’s Favorite Mac and Cheese with a side of Steamed Broccoli (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Although usually high in fat and calories, mac and cheese has its roots in most everyone’s childhood. I used to love making the Kraft Mac and Cheese that came in the box with the powdered cheese mix, adding milk, and stirring until the powdered cheese dissolved…and once in a while I’d get to make the “Deluxe” Kraft Mac and Cheese that had the premade cheese sauce to mix in. Pretty cool.

Vintage advertisement for Deluxe Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  (Photo Credit: Vintageadbrowser.com)
Vintage advertisement for Deluxe Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. (Photo Credit: Vintageadbrowser.com)

Now, with an emphasis on homemade recipes, I haven’t purchased prepackaged macaroni and cheese for years. My cheese sauce is based upon a recipe from The Joy of Cooking.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese.  Heaven.  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Baked Macaroni and Cheese. Heaven. (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

I like to use a pasta that holds the sauce well. Cavatappi, shells, elbows, penne, and pipe rigate are great choices. Start by cooking some pasta, draining it, and setting it aside. And preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cavatappi is a curly pasta noodle that holds the sauce well (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Cavatappi is a curly pasta noodle that holds the sauce well (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Shred some of your favorite cheeses. I like to use a sharp cheddar along with another “flavorful” cheese such as smoked Gouda, Swiss, or Monterey Jack.

Shredded sharp cheddar cheese adds a tang to any dish!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese adds a tang to any dish! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Make a roux with butter and flour, and then stir in some milk, minced onion, bay leaf, paprika, salt and pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Simmer until the white sauce reduces. Remove the bay leaf.

White sauce with bay leaf, paprika, and red onion (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
White sauce with bay leaf, paprika, and red onion (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Stir in the shredded cheese.

Add the shredded cheese to the white sauce (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Add the shredded cheese to the white sauce (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Stir in the cooked pasta. At this point you can stir in your favorite additions such as cooked chopped ham or broccoli florets.

Add the cavatappi to the cheese sauce (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Add the cavatappi to the cheese sauce (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Butter a deep baking dish.

Butter a deep baking dish (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Butter a deep baking dish (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Top with some buttered breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan.

Macaroni and Cheese with buttered breadcrumbs, ready for the oven!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Macaroni and Cheese with buttered breadcrumbs, ready for the oven! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

And bake for about 30 minutes.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Baked Macaroni and Cheese! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

My favorite part of the baking process is when the mac and cheese bubbles over!

Ooey Gooey Macaroni and Cheese (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Ooey Gooey Macaroni and Cheese (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

You can also use several baking dishes for a party buffet. You can’t have enough macaroni and cheese for a crowd. Also, I like to use individual ramekins for the macaroni and cheese which makes cute single-servings.

Make several dishes of Mac and Cheese for a party (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Make several dishes of Mac and Cheese for a party (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

You can add all sorts of additional ingredients to mac and cheese. One of my absolute favorites is Niman Ranch ham. Dice it up, and stir it in, and you’ve got a tasty meal.

Just the inside of the Mac and Cheese! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Just the inside of the Mac and Cheese! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Mac and Cheese with bits of Ham (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Mac and Cheese with bits of Ham (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

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From the kitchen of A Food Lover’s Delight….

The Food Lover’s Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

12 oz dried pasta such as cavatappi, mini shells, penne, or elbows
2 T butter
1/8 c flour
2 c whole or 2% milk
1/4 c minced red onion
1 bay leaf
1/2 t sweet red paprika
1 t salt
Several twists cracked black pepper
2 – 3 drops Tabasco sauce
1.5 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 c shredded smoked Gouda cheese

1/4 c fresh breadcrumbs
1 T melted butter
1 T shredded Parmesan cheese

Mix-in Additions:

Diced bacon
Diced ham
Diced pepperoni
Diced turkey
Chopped cooked or roasted chicken
Chopped cooked lobster meat
Diced roasted red pepper
Green beans
Green peas
Broccoli florets
Cauliflower florets
Caramelized onions or shallots
Dried cranberries
Sauteed sliced apples
Chopped tomatoes
Pumpkin puree
Diced cooked butternut squash
Fresh spinach leaves
Sliced mushrooms
Truffle oil

Method:

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the pasta in a large pot filled with water according to the directions on the package. When cooked, drain pasta and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a chef’s pan over medium low heat.
3. Whisk the flour into the melted butter to make a roux, and cook for about two minutes.
4. Whisk the milk into the roux, whisking until the roux dissolves into the milk.
5. Add the minced onion, bay leaf, sweet paprika, salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce.
6. Lower the heat and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 10 – 15 minutes.
7. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaf. Stir in half of the shredded cheddar and Gouda cheeses until the cheese has melted, and then stir in the cooked and drained pasta. Stir until well-mixed. At this point, you can stir in one of your favorite mix-ins such as chopped ham, chopped cooked lobster meat, or diced cooked butternut squash.
8. Butter a 1 1/4 quart deep baking dish or one that will fit the pasta mixture.
9. Spoon in half the pasta mixture, then sprinkle with some of the cheddar and Gouda shredded cheeses. Repeat with the rest of the pasta and cheeses.
10. In a small pan, melt the butter and mix the breadcrumbs into the butter, coating evenly. Sprinkle in the shredded Parmesan, and stir lightly.
11. Before the Parmesan melts, sprinkle the cheesy breadcrumbs evenly over the pasta.
12. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs have browned and the pasta is bubbling. Let sit for about 10 minutes and serve.

Serves 4 as a main course. Offer a green salad or vegetable to accompany your mac and cheese dish.

Variations (see additions, above): Can use reduced fat cheese, fat free or lowfat milk, and cut back on the butter and amount of cheese. Use individual ramekins for a “personal size” treat for a dinner party. Pile on the cheese if you like it cheesier.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Baked Macaroni and Cheese! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

www.afoodloversdelight.com (Copyright Adroit Ideals 2013)

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