Monday, September 12, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese: A Comforting Favorite

We are facing the first full week of school ahead and I must admit it’s a bit of a reality check. Summer really is over and it’s time to focus on homework, practicing the bass (both Sam and Isaac play bass in the school orchestra), after school sports, more homework, school paperwork and meetings ... my calendar has filled up quickly and I’m already missing the blank white squares of July and August. Sigh!

I am in need of comfort food! Macaroni and cheese springs to mind immediately. I found a classic version in Cook’s Illustrated a few years ago that I love and have been playing with the recipe ever since. I like to add some variety at times and get creative with the cheeses, increase the spice or change up the crumb topping. The basic sauce foundation of butter, flour and milk stays the same.

Below is my current version. It includes goat cheese in addition to the traditional cheddar, and I’ve made a buttery crumb topping with whole wheat panko bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Other cheese suggestions for the sauce are Gruyere, Monterey jack or a handful of feta. It makes enough for a 9x13 baking dish, or you can get fancy and present it in ramekins as a side dish. Or, do as I often do on a weeknight and serve it straight from the cooking pot without the crumb topping. No one seems to mind!

I hope this cheesy goodness adds warmth and comfort to the start of your week!

Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes enough for 1-9x13 pan (main course) or 10 ramekins (side dish)

1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni or your favorite shaped pasta
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and divided
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 cups milk (whole or lowfat is fine)
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 ounces soft goat cheese (or you can use all cheddar cheese or another cheese of your choice)
Salt to taste
1 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Hot sauce for serving

In a large saucepan or soup pot (I use an 8 quart), bring water to boil and cook the macaroni until it is tender. Drain in a colander and set the macaroni aside.

In the same large saucepan, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour, mustard and cayenne pepper and whisk together for about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer until it is the consistency of heavy cream, stirring often to prevent sticking (about 5 minutes).

Remove pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar and goat cheese until melted. Season to taste with salt. Add the macaroni and stir well.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the panko bread crumbs, the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and the Parmesan cheese.

Spoon the macaroni and cheese into a 9x13 baking dish or into 10 ramekins (if using ramekins you may have a little leftover). Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top evenly. Broil until the bread crumbs are golden brown, rotating if necessary. Serve warm and enjoy!

**The macaroni and cheese can be prepared a day ahead (without crumb topping) and kept covered in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, reheat pan in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes (until heated through) and then sprinkle on the crumb topping and broil to finish. The macaroni and cheese also freezes well. Wrap tightly in plastic and freeze without the crumb topping. Defrost and follow the same directions for reheating.


  1. Very comforting indeed - love a good mac and cheese! I hear you on missing the freedom of summer. We just had day 1 of preschool today and already am feeling panicked by the routine!

  2. I think there is nothing so comforting as a hot bowl of homemade mac and cheese. Cheesy goodness indeed! Your post made me hungry Hannah! :)

  3. love your addition of goats cheese. All the best for your kids first week back at school!

    I hope you are all doing well settling into the school routine, Lisa!

  5. @The Shiksa in the Kitchen
    Sending you mac & cheese wishes, Tori! Thank you for stopping by.:)

  6. @my darling lemon thyme
    Thank you so much, Emma! We are getting back into the rhythm and the kids are doing well. It's all good!

  7. There are few things better than a good macaroni and cheese! Now I really want to try it with feta or goat cheese. I love it in little ramekins, too!

  8. I confess I'm not a fan of macaroni and cheese, but my family is, and I *love* the idea of making it in ramekins and then freezing so the kids can have it for dinner sometimes. (I clicked a link to your blog solely because I liked the name, by the way. And I'm glad I did!)

  9. @Lauren
    Thank you, Lauren! I hope you enjoy some of the cheese variations. Aren't ramekins wonderful? I love how any food can looked dressed up and festive in them. :)

  10. @Dani @ Moderate Oven
    Hi Dani! Love your single-serve dinner possibility...sounds perfect for your kids. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    PS Just saw you have a kale & beet green pesto recipe I must try! I haven't been very creative with our beet greens (in fact, the chickens have been eating them) so I'll be making pesto. Thank you! :)

  11. We made this tonight. It was fantastic.

    Next, kimchi.


  12. @Badger
    Thank you, Kent! I hope you enjoy the kimchi. It's become a family favorite here.

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