Macaroni & Cheese, Take 2

So as I updated in the last post, my most recent attempt at mac & cheese left me thinking my search was over, I had found mac & cheese nirvana.

I still think that’s possible, although I don’t suppose it’ll necessarily keep me from trying additional versions. Maybe there’s a secondary nirvana that’s even greater than the first.

This version contains no Velveeta, so it kicks the pants off the first version right from the start. It is more complicated to make however, so there is that. But if all I cared about was how easy it is, I’d probably never stray from the boxed stuff.

The recipe is barely modified from the cookbook Saveur Cooks Authentic American. And “barely modified’ means I left off the bread crumb topping. Because I didn’t have any fresh bread crumbs and was too lazy to make them. It’s easy to be lazy when you’re not crazy about bread crumb topping anyway. And I upped the pepper amounts too but I always do that.

So, ingredients.

  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. cayenne (1/2 tsp in the original version)
  • salt & freshly ground pepper (white pepper in the original version. I didn’t care about it defacing the appearance of my food to use my regular peppercorns. Plus I don’t own any white peppercorns & I wasn’t about to go shopping just for that.)
  • 3 3/4 cups hot milk. Mine was warmish.
  • 4 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided. I used sharp, and grated it myself. That would be 16 ounces if I did my math correctly.
  • 1 lb pasta, cooked. I used penne I think.
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream.

Melt butter & whisk in flour & cook for about 4 minutes. Stir in seasonings. Whisk in milk a little bit at a time and cook until sauce thickens, whisking constantly (or not quite constantly if you’re me and are doing other things at the same time as this is going). Reduce heat to low & stir in 2 cups of cheese, and cook until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese sauce.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over the bottom of a large baking dish. Put 1/3 of pasta in the dish, top with 1/2 cup cheese, and repeat layers two more times. End with cheese. Pour cream over the casserole and bake in a 350F oven about 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Directions are slightly abbreviated for typing ease.

This stuff is good. Rob said it was fantastically creamy. Well, he said it was creamy, but I know he meant “fantastically creamy.”

Super Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

(The little black speck in the picture above is black pepper. Really, it’s not dirt in my macaroni. Just course-ground black pepper.)

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Macaroni & Cheese

I absolutely adore macaroni and cheese. It’s up there with my favorite dishes ever. Now if I could only find the ultimate recipe for cheesy goodness.* I am not very good at getting cheese sauces to be smooth instead of grainy so that always hinders my mac & cheese making.

So this time, I cheated. I used some Velveeta in an attempt to guarantee smooth-and-creaminess.

And guess what? It worked! Hallelujah & pass the mac & cheese.

oh, perhaps my new technique helped as well.

While water for some macaroni (actually penne rigatoni) was heating, I set up my make-shift double boiler. Which is just a metal bowl set into a pan with some water, which, while not as convenient as a true double boiler (the lack of handles would prove troublesome), had the advantage of being available.

Chopped and/or shredded cheese into the bowl. A lot of it. It’s about half velveeta, and then the other half is a combo of cheddar and cheddar with peppers. And this cheddar with pepper cheese is AWESOME. Just sayin’.

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Add milk. Maybe 2/3 of a cup? I just poured until it looked good.

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Then whisk away as the cheese melts and turns into a luscious sauce.

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Once the sauce is creamy and melted, add the cooked pasta and stir together.

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Pour into a baking dish and put into the oven for 10 minutes or so. I probably had the oven at 350.

Eat and enjoy. Super creamy, luscious macaroni and cheese. I love this stuff. This is not my ultimate mac & cheese however. I don’t like using Velveeta and I think that’s what caused this to be almost impossibly sticky.

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UPDATE!!! This recipe was made much earlier than it was posted, due to me being a slacker and taking forever to get the pics off the camera. But, I made mac & cheese following a different recipe last weekend (just after posting this) and it may have become my ultimate recipe. Not as simple as this one, but so much creamier and tastier. I’ll try to get it written up and the pictures ready to go ASAP.

Baked Spaghetti. Oh, my, yes indeed.

Another recipe from another blog, this time Tammy’s Recipes. This is her three-cheese baked spaghetti, a recipe she modified from another site.

I doubled her recipe, since I knew I’d like the leftovers. And I didn’t use feta cheese, but I did use mozzarella, Parmesan, and a little cheddar so it was still three-cheese.

It’s very lasagna-like, but even easier than layering cooked noodles, sauce, cheese, repeat. It goes together quickly and is absolutely delicious! And, as expected, the leftovers are, if anything, even better than the original meal. Go to Tammy’s Recipes and see her post with the full recipe and pictures, but if you can’t wait, here’s a picture of it just before putting it in the oven:

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PW’s Lasagna. It IS the Best. Ever.

No pictures, since they’d just pale in comparison to Pioneer Woman‘s fantastic shots.

There was a lot of debate in the comments to her post about how this couldn’t be the best ever lasagna because it uses Jimmy Dean sausage and Kraft Parmesan cheese (in the can!). Frankly, I don’t really care. I had two brothers-in-law and their friend who are all staying with us (cozy!) and so I needed something that would please some very non-gourmet, hungry guys.

Pioneer Woman did not fail me with her self-proclaimed Best Lasagna Ever.

The ingredients were basic – ground beef, breakfast sausage, garlic, canned tomatoes & paste, parsley, basil, salt, cottage cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.

I followed her recipe exactly except I only used a pound of ground beef so it was equal portions beef to sausage. I also skipped the second teaspoon of salt that she said to add to the cottage cheese mixture. And I didn’t layer the noodles the way she said because I forgot what I was doing. But yeah, other than that, EXACTLY.

The sliced mozzarella was super easy and seemed like it made it extra stringy. Not that I’m complaining about that. It also made FANTASTIC leftovers. Not that there was much leftover after the four guys attacked it. Just enough for me to take to work the next day and make my coworkers jealous. Because they were. I had to share the website & recipe with Jennifer2 after she smelled it reheating in the microwave.

So, go to The Pioneer Woman Cooks! website and read the recipe in all its well-photographed glory. Then make it. You won’t be sorry.