Farewell, blue box. You have been forever replaced. I don’t care if you are ready to eat in less than 30 minutes. Your successor boasts gooey, real cheese bubbling underneath a breadcrumb topping… I’m melting just thinking about it.
Have I mentioned before how I adore the Smitten Kitchen blog? Well, I do. I find her pictures mesmerizing, and every recipe I have made from her blog is simply delicious.
I’ve followed Deb’s blog ever since she caught my eye with this recipe for Homemade Oreos. Which I have made several times over, and highly recommend. Much better than the store bought counterpart.
I digress. I’ve made Deb’s version of Martha Stewart’s Macaroni and Cheese several times now. And every time, I am convinced I shall never purchase a blue box with fluorescent orange “cheese” again.
Now, this dish cannot be whipped together at the drop of the hat. But trust me, it’s worth the effort!
When you are making a dish which calls for shredded cheese, you should almost always shred your own. Especially when you are melting the cheese. Pre-shredded cheese contains flours or powders to keep it from caking in the package. This extra stuff will have adverse effects on the final dish. Besides, with all the calories you’ll be taking in, you can spare a few to grate the cheese yourself!
After grating the cheese, make the béchamel. Melt butter in a pan and add the flour. Cook this until it is bubbly, and the raw flour taste has cooked out. Then, you’ll start whisking in the milk, little by little. At first it will look like odd mashed potatoes, but by the time all of the milk has been whisked in, it turns into a smooth, creamy, thick sauce.
Then you’ll mix in your spices. Just a little pinch of cayenne and nutmeg. Add more cayenne if you’re feeling bold.
Now, mix in half of the shredded cheeses.
Cook the pasta only until the outside is fully cooked, but the inside is not. It will finish cooking in the oven.
Add the pasta to the cheese, give it a good stir, and put it in a buttered dish.
Top with the other half of the cheeses.
And the breadcrumbs.
Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are toasted.
And if you go back for seconds (or thirds), I won’t tell.
Butter an 8? by 8? or 2 quart casserole dish and set aside. Melt the butter in a high-sided skillet. When it bubbles, add the flour. Cook and stir for 1 minute. While whisking, add the milk a little bit at a time (less than half of a cup), in order to keep sauce smooth. Continue to cook and whisk constantly for 8 to 10 minutes, until bubbly and thick. Remove from heat. Stir in seasonings and half of the grated cheeses and set aside. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water for 3 to 4 minutes, until the outside is done, but the inside is not. Drain and rinse under cool water. Add to cheese and stir well. Place in buttered dish and top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Let sit about 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Martha Stewart