Macaroni and Cheese
I am going to post a few recipes for baked pasta and might as well start with the most popular baked pasta, Mac and Cheese. I like my mac and cheese not too wet with a crisp top layer. Sometimes I layer a few slices of tomatoes in the middle and always sprinkle bread crumbs on top before baking for an extra crispy topping. The sauce is a basic béchamel with butter, flour and milk and I add the cheese to it when it’s done, stirring to just melt the cheese into the sauce. I tend to mix the cheeses: parmesan, gruyer, feta, goat, pecorino, whatever I have on hand that seems reasonable. I have even made it with some blue cheese in the mix. You can bake the mac n’ cheese in a large baking pan or piled into individual shallow gratin dishes, baked and served individually. Shallow baking dishes would give more “real estate” for the topping so you have more crispy top layer. Don’t smooth out the top either, allow the mac and cheese to have a few peaks here and there. These will become crisp and delicious and maybe even a bit charred in spots as you bake it at high heat. This recipe makes a large serving but is good heated up the next day as well.
1 lb macaroni or other small pasta
5 tablespoon butter
5 tablespoons flour
4 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
A few drops hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoons salt
4 cups grated cheddar and gruyer cheeses or mixture of other cheeses
1 1/2 cups herbed bread crumbs
2 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup chopped parsley
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add salt and add macaroni and cook until not quite al dente (macaroni will continue to cook in the oven).
In another pot melt the butter, add the flour and stir with a whisk or a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes to cook the flour.
Add the milk, 1/2 cup at a time whisking until the mixture thickens, then add remaining milk and let cook over low heat until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly, scraping from the bottom of the pan and being careful not to burn it at the bottom.
When the sauce is thick add the grated cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the nutmeg, hot pepper sauce and salt, remove from heat and set aside.
When the macaroni is cooked drain into colander and return to the pot. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir with a wooden spoon.
Pour the macaroni into individual gratins or a large buttered baking dish. You can add a few tomato slices into the macaroni either half way through pouring it into the pan or at the end, tucking them in with a knife. Don’t smooth out the top, allow a few peaks here and there, they will become crisp and delicious as you bake it.
To make the topping:
Melt the butter, pour over the bread crumbs in a bowl and mix to combine. Add the Parmesan and parsley.
Sprinkle topping over macaroni, bake in 400℉ oven 10-15 minutes or until crumbs are nicely golden. Serve immediately.