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)


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)
1 cup panko
2 tablespoons olive oil


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?