Remember how I said I liked comfort food? There’s a classic staple of comfort food eating that I didn’t mention – mac and cheese. I didn’t actually have Kraft Dinner until I was in my early teens. My parents weren’t big proponents of boxed food. But once I had my first taste, my whole world changed (hyperbole aside, it was awesome).
Now that I’m older and more conscious of what I eat (hint: don’t read the ingredients on a box of KD…it’s a little scary), I’ve searched for ways to make this delicious meal in a more homey way. One of my favourite sites, Smitten Kitchen, has a great recipe for a homemade version of this cheesy treat (which I have actually made, and can confirm that it’s super easy and utterly delicious). Another (via Martha Stewart) is a little more involved but based on the various photos, reviews and comments, seems like it will be well worth the effort to try.
Adapted from The New York Times, 1/4/06
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat)
- 2 cups milk (not skim)
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- Pinch cayenne
- Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (I skipped this)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I’m a big fan of Cabot extra-sharp, in the purple wrapper)
- 1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked
- Heat oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use one tablespoon butter to grease a 9-inch round or square baking pan.
- In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together.
- Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.
- Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
Adapted slightly from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics (Clarkson Potter, 2007)
- 8tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
- 6slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn or diced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
- 5 1/2cups milk
- 1/2cup all-purpose flour
- 2teaspoons salt
- 1/4teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 4 1/2cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 ounces)
- 2cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 ounces) or 1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 ounces)
- 1pound elbow macaroni (or other small pasta shape)
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter (alternately, melt butter in the microwave). Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside. Pull out 1 1/2 cups of grated cheddar, and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, and reserve.
- Fill a large pot with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer’s directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. In the same pot you used for boiling the pasta, melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
- While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
- Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup Pecorino Romano. Stir reserved macaroni into the cheese sauce.
- Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes, it’s not browned to your liking, broil the topping rather than leaving it in the oven, which may cause the pasta to overcook and sauce to dry out. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.