6.25.2009

Homemade Mac And Cheese


I love macaroni and cheese. It is one of my ultimate comfort foods. It pairs well with most things -- fish, chicken, hot dogs... I could go on. On this particular night, we decided to have hot dogs with it. I don't know if my recent consumption of a Fenway Frank left me craving more hot dogs or if all the talk in the "blogosphere," on Twitter, and in Bon Appetit put hot dogs in my head, but for some reason I wanted them. I can't even remember the last time I bought a package of hot dogs. I even had trouble remembering the kinds I liked.

We went to the grocery store, and eventually I saw a package of Kahn's, and something just clicked. While I picked out cheese for the mac and cheese, my boyfriend went off to find the hot dog rolls. When he came back, I broached that long-time puzzling topic of why hot dogs come in packages of eight and their buns come in packages of six. I'll never understand it. Do the bun people just assume that two hot dogs need to remain bunless?

Anyways, this post is supposed to be about the mac and cheese -- but feel free to weigh in on the hot dog/bun thing -- I'm curious.

This is the first time I've made baked macaroni and cheese without a recipe. It's still a work in progress, but I'm sharing with you what I did in hopes that you'll all have suggestions to share with me about how you make your own macaroni and cheese.

I thought it was very tasty but probably could have benefited from a bit more flavor. I suppose I should have added onions and maybe sprinkled bacon on top. I could have tossed it with tomatoes -- if my boyfriend would eat them. There are likely tons of things I could have added, actually, but my goal was a plain, not very saucy macaroni and cheese. So that's what I went for. It had tons of cheesy flavor, just not various other flavors.

Megan's Baked Mac & Cheese
(Printable version)

Ingredients

1 pound box mini farfalle (or pasta shapes of your choice)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
16 ounces cheddar cheese, divided (4 cups - I used a blend of three cheddars)
salt
pepper
1 cup panko
2 tablespoons olive oil


Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large casserole dish with olive oil.

Cook pasta according to package directions (make sure to salt your water) until al dente. Drain, pour into casserole dish, and then stir 8 ounces (1 2-cup package) cheese into pasta. (You can also mix the pasta and cheese in a bowl, but I didn't want to dirty another dish.)


While the pasta is cooking, in small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Using a wire whisk, stir in flour, and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Gradually add milk while whisking and cook until mixture boils. Simmer for 2 minutes, and then set aside. (This sauce is called bechamel.)


Mix panko, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and a couple small handfuls of cheese in a small bowl.



Take remaining cheese and stir it into the bechamel. Season with salt and pepper.


Pour the cheesy bechamel over the pasta in the casserole dish and stir to combine. (Again, you could do this in a bowl and then pour everything into the casserole dish for ease, but I opted for one less dish.)


Bake macaroni in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is gooey and smoothly melted over pasta.


Remove dish from oven and sprinkle panko mixture evenly over the top.


Return to oven for about 5 minutes. Then turn on broiler and check frequently. (Depending on your oven, it might only take 2 minutes for the panko to brown. ) Once panko is brown, remove baked macaroni from oven. We let it rest for about 5 minutes before digging in.


It was gooey and satisfying, with a slight bite from the sharp cheddar. I love the smooth, creamy cheese mingled with the crunchy panko.

Now, how do you make mac and cheese? What do you throw in? Do you find making your own too time-consuming and just stick with a store-bought kind -- if so, what kind?

17 comments:

  1. It looks like you did a pretty good job. I think it is all about the cheese sauce, I love sharp flavorful cheese in my mac and cheese. Bacon would definitely be a win in here as well as some chopped tomatoes. Honestly, I hate raw tomatoes, but I think they are great in a mac and cheese. Maybe you can sneak some in next time.

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  2. I made a quick but satisfying mac and cheese by heating cottage cheese, a little milk, and several strong-flavored cheeses on the stove top. With pepper and nutmeg, it made a very satisfying, and easy, dish.

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  3. Looks like it turned out really good. :)

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  4. this looks wonderful! i love homemade mac'n'cheese. I always mix mine right in the dish, too! I don't have a dishwasher, so the less dishes the better.

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  5. Mmm, nice crunch with the panko. Love that you used farfalle. Cavatappi is our fave pasta to use for mac and cheese.

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  6. This looks like one serriously addictive mac and cheese! So gooey and delicious! Yum!

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  7. I love how you've used mini farfalle! They are so cute :) Panko is a great idea for the topping. I've actually never made homemade mac and cheese. When we have it I just use Kraft from the box! I don't know about the hot dog/bun conundrum, but all I can figure is that they want you to buy 4 packages of buns and 3 packages of hot dogs for a total of 24 pairs - that way you spend more????

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  8. I love homemade mac and cheese, but I've never used panko on top. Your pics may have convinced me to try, though... I'm hungry now!

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  9. Panko on top looks so good. I will try that next time. I cook the noodles, drain, add chesse, salt, and pepper. Put it in a casserole dish. Mix eggs and milk and pour over the top, and bake.

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  10. I made mac and cheese just the other night. I tried it stovetop and it must pretty successful. I add shallot for a milder onion taste, ground mustard, paprika, a shot of worsterchire, and a pinch of nutmeg. White cheddar helps the sauce not become grainy as sometimes happens with yellow. I'm going to try evaporated milk next time... saw it in a new recipe. I love a panko topping :)

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  11. OMG MY FAV.... I could eat mac and cheese everyday... and that's all I ate until I turned 12! this looks phenomenal.

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  12. I love all that golden brown topping! Mac&cheese is the best comfort food and yours looks so good!

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  13. Thanks for all the comments, everyone! You'll love the panko topping if you give it a try!!

    Meghan - I think you must be right about the hot dog buns!

    Joan - Eggs sound like an interesting addition!

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  14. The first and only time I made mac and cheese I used smoked gouda and added some spinach. The taste was wonderful, but the color - oh my the entire thing turned quite green. Yours looks quite appetizing and I like the addition of panko for the topping!

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  15. I'm going to try this recipe. It's freezing cold here in Australia at the moment which makes it perfect for eating mac and cheese.

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  16. I never make store bought mac'n'cheese because it's too much fun to make my own. Your recipe sounds fantastic. I too prefer panko - much lighter and crispier than regular bread crumbs. The best part of making your own at home is that for a cheese lover like me, you can experiment with different cheeses. Right now I'm on a gruyere/sharp white cheddar kick. But that always changes.

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