Thursday, July 30, 2009

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese














Macaroni & Cheese is one of those recipes that seems to inspire a lot of arguments of which type is "the best." As a kid, I didn't see a lot of macaroni & cheese on the dinner table. It just wasn't something my mom liked to make, since she rarely prepared foods that came in a box. As a result, I never really developed a childhood fondness for the stuff in the blue box. I had eaten it of course, we did buy it occasionally, but it just wasn't as common in our house. It was never served at special meals or family gatherings, but instead was more of a lunch item, or perhaps relegated to an accompaniment for hot dogs when we didn't feel like having baked beans.

I really didn't develop a taste for macaroni & cheese until I was an adult, and became quite fond of the Southern style homemade versions, baked in a rich custard base, that when scooped would hold a shape, without being too creamy or cheesy. I don't like a lot of complicated flavors in my macaroni & cheese, and I don't want to bite into anything other than smooth cheese-coated noodles, not bits of onions or peppers. As fate would have it, my daughter likes the stuff the comes out of a box. I tried many different recipes, trying to find a happy medium between baked in the oven coziness and the ease and flavor my daughter liked from the stove top boxed version.

While I still love a more traditional Southern style macaroni & cheese, this version is very good and comes very close to a compromise acceptable for the blue box lovers. It is the only homemade version of macaroni & cheese my daughter will eat. It also happens to be somewhat healthier, as the original is from Cooking Light.

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Cooking Light)
(makes 1 large 9x13" casserole, about 8-10 servings)

1 (16 ounce) box tiny pasta shapes (elbow macaroni or mini shells)*, cooked and drained
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk (you can use whichever % fat you prefer)
6 ounces light Velveeta American cheese, cubed
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp salt (I like Lawry's seasoned salt)

Preheat oven to 375 F and lightly grease a 9x13" casserole.

Combine flour and milk in a sauce pot big enough to hold the cooked macaroni later. Whisk together until flour has dissolved, then turn on the heat to medium. Keep whisking occasionally, and let the mixture cook until it thickens, about 8 minutes. Once it has thickened, stir in the Velveeta and only 2/3 cup of the Cheddar cheese and continue to cook and stir until they have melted and combined, stirring the whole time, about 3 minutes. Add the pasta and salt, stirring to combine.

Pour into the prepared casserole, and then sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup cheese. Of course you can sprinkle more cheese on top if you like, I won't tell the diet police. You really just need enough to lightly cover the surface, so I don't bother to measure here. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes until lightly golden on top and bubbling.

*Note: The original calls for 3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (6 cups once cooked), but that left only a tiny amount, less than a cup, in the box. So I just use the whole box instead.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for adding me to your favorites! Your macaroni and cheese looks and sounds much better than the one I made. I will definitely have to try it! :o)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Heather I have always loved macaroni and cheese, including the stuff in the blue box. I make sure I stock up on it when I go to Canada. We never had it when I was growing up, at all. I don't think my dad liked macaroni much at all, unless it had meat in it. I miss elbow macaroni over here. Your macaroni and cheese looks totally delish!

    ReplyDelete
  3. The only time I would ever consider eating "blue box" mac 'n cheese is if it was part of our survival rations in a bomb shelter during WW III!!¡

    ReplyDelete