My family has a long history of enjoying my mother’s recipe for baked macaroni and cheese. Because it is a recipe not very heart healthy we only have it a few times a year. It has become one of our son’s favorite meals. I always made it as his birthday dinner and continue to prepare it whenever he visits, or whenever my husband drives back to NJ to see him. One such road trip will take place this weekend and my husband will arrive with meal in hand.
When my parents used to visit us on trips back to NJ from Florida, I would make a big pan of this baked macaroni and cheese. It can be made in advance, frozen and baked with little fuss. A salad or nice green vegetable is all you need to complete the meal. It also goes very well as a holiday side with fish or ham. We were under the impression that my father really liked this family treasure. On one such visit to our home, sitting at our large table, we asked him if he was happy that he was having his ‘favorite’ for dinner. His reply shocked us all, especially my mother. Apparently it was not his favorite at all. He just ate whatever was prepared for him, liking it or not, and was always appreciative. Possibly all that baked mac and cheese added to his heart disease. I suppose the recipe could be made with skim milk and margarine, but I only use butter, whole milk (or sometimes 2%) and New York State Extra Sharp Cheddar topped with butter browned panko crumbs. For anyone interested, the recipe is below:
1 lb Rigatoni pasta
1 lb Extra Sharp NY Cheddar Cheese
1 qt + 1 C Milk
1 stick Butter + 3 Tbsp for topping
6 Tbsp flour or Wondra
To Taste Pepper, panko breadcrumbs (½ to 1 C panko)
1. Melt stick of butter, mix flour into melted butter, add milk gradually and stir to distribute flour mixture.
2. Add pepper to taste.
3. Cook on medium heat stirring constantly (do not burn bottom; this takes a while)
4. Sauce should reach a simmer and thicken slightly.
5. Remove from heat.
6. Shred cheese. Reserve some for topping.
7. Boil pasta, drain and place in baking dish/pan or casserole
8. Add shredded cheese to sauce, mix and pour over pasta.
9. Stir to get sauce into pasta tubes.
10. Brown panko crumbs in melted butter (3 Tbsp.) Add pepper to taste.
11. Sprinkle with crumbs and remaining shredded cheese.
12. Bake at 350 about an hour or until sizzling. Can be frozen in freezer appropriate pan. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before baking.
This recipe has been made to send to families mourning a loss, to families dealing with dying members and just because it is so very good. For anyone that thinks baked mac and cheese can come from a box, you must try this recipe. It takes a little more time but is very much worth the effort.