Sometimes you just need baked mac and cheese. The boxed stuff is missing that comfort factor and also has a lot of gunk in it that isn’t needed. I’m a huge fan of the idea that if you can’t recognize an ingredient, you probably shouldn’t be putting it in your body. Plus, making your own baked mac and cheese isn’t really that complicated, you just need to wash a couple extra dishes and it takes about 45 minutes to an hour as opposed to 10 minutes. But it is worth it, isn’t it? That crisp top and creamy center — I swear I dream of this stuff!
If you’ve never made your own macaroni and cheese before, then this recipe is for you! It is very forgiving and you can add just about any kind of cheese you want. What I have here is my family’s favorite blend, but feel free to add Gruyère, Pepper jack, Gouda, heck…Velveeta if you really want to. I won’t judge!
What you need:
An 8×8 glass baking dish or something of an approximate measurement (oval, rectangular, etc.).
2 Tbs of butter
2 Tbs of flour
2 Cups of milk
1 Cup of shredded, sharp cheddar (Do yourself a favor and shred your own — you don’t want to know what they put in that pre-shredded stuff)
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese plus 1 Tbs for the baking dish & top of the mac
3 slices of good ole American processed cheese or another 1/2 Cup of shredded cheese of your choice.
1/4 tsp of ground mustard powder
1/4 tsp of garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Half a pound (half a box) of elbow macaroni
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare your baking dish by greasing it with butter and sprinkling most of the 1 Tbs of parmesan cheese around in the dish. This will help create a nice crispy crust on the underside of the baked mac n cheese.
Set your water to boil for your pasta (make sure you salt your water) in one pot and get your butter melting over medium-high heat in another sauce pan. Once the butter is melted, add 2 Tbs of flour to the butter and whisk continuously, cooking your roux for about a minute or two until it becomes golden a color.
Slowly whisk in your milk — don’t stop whisking — work that arm! Once your white sauce starts to become thickened, you can add your cheeses slowly, but keep that whisk moving. You may want to turn your heat down to low at this point. After you have a lovely cheese sauce, add your mustard powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. This stuff is good enough to drink now, but be patient!
Hopefully you remembered to boil your pasta while you were doing all that whisking, but if not, just keep your cheese sauce warm on a very low heat, stirring occasionally while the pasta cooks.
You don’t have to cook the pasta completely, just under al dente will be perfect. Drain your pasta and add it to the pot with the sauce, stirring it up all nice and cheesy. Because there is no egg in this sauce, you technically could eat your mac and cheese just like this, and believe me…I am a fan of stovetop style macaroni and cheese; however, baking this makes it so darn good, you’ve gotta try it!
Pour all your mac and cheese into your baking dish (top with some panko, parm, both or none) and pop it in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
Voilà — magic in a pan! I like to serve this up with some grilled chicken and broccoli. The kids can’t get enough of it. I’m sure they dream about it, too!