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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Baked Macaroni and Cheese from Annette - Family Favorite




Today is Leap Day (February 29, 2012), so I thought it deserved a special recipe. This is recipe that started it all! This is the first real "from scratch" recipe I ever learned to make. Macaroni and Cheese is one of my most favorite foods in the world, and after a while, the box version at home just wasn't cutting it. As mentioned in my very first post on this blog, I credit my good friend Annette in general, and this recipe in particular, with starting me on the path to actually learning to cook. As you can see from this blog, I still make plenty of things that involve ingredients from a can or box, but I do less of it now than I used to (no more Hamburger Helper! LOL), all thanks to her and this recipe. I've made two slight alterations (the addition of 1/2 tsp dried mustard, and backing down the temp to 350 to start, but that is mainly due to my "hot" oven; original recipe called for 375), and I've tinkered with the cheese blend off and on. I've tried several other mac and cheese recipes, and I always come back to this one.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Source: Annette Wright

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz macaroni or other small shaped pasta
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard (optional)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheese blend of your choice, divided (1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup)

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cook pasta according to package instructions; drain.
  • In medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Remove from heat and add flour, salt, pepper, and mustard, whisking until smooth.
  • Replace on medium heat and slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Bring mixture just to a boil (stirring still). Reduce heat to low and simmer for one minute.
  • Remove from heat and add 1-1/2 cups cheese. Stir until smooth. Add pasta, stirring until well coated. Pour into greased 2 quart baking dish and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until bubbly. If not yet brown, increase oven temp to 400 and check at 3 minute intervals until brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Notes:
  • Annette's note: Works well with Farfalle or Rotini pasta. Also good with a mix of cheddar and swiss.
  • Erin's note: I really like elbows (preferably the ones with ribs/ridges, but the smooth ones are okay), rotini, or ditalini pasta. Our family favorite cheese blend is 1/2 sharp cheddar and 1/2 fontina. Recipe is also easily scalable, from 1/4 of these amounts for a single serving, up to at least doubled (that's as high as I've gone).

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