How do you like your maccaroni and cheese? Do you like it baked with a crunchy bread crumb layer and stiff enough to slice? How about from the stove top with a creamy cheese sauce? Or even (gasp) from the box? Regardless of how you like it, I highly recommend you give this version a try.
This mac and cheese is extra cheesy and has a crunchy panko bread crumb topping. Whole wheat elbows adds a light nutty flavor (and some extra fiber). This is the ultimate in comfort food and is ripe for modifications. I could see additions of bacon or some wilted spinach. Alternatively, you could throw in some blue or goat cheese for an interesting flavor option.
This is great right out of the oven or eaten cold out of the fridge the next day. The perfect dinner for a cold winter Sunday night.
Baked Mac & Cheese
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
8 oz whole wheat elbow pasta
5 oz mild cheddar, shredded
4 oz Monterey jack, shredded
1 small onion, diced
3 tbls tablespoons butter, divided
2 tbls flour
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp paprika
1 bay leaf
2 cups milk (2%)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Shred the cheeses and set aside.
Fill a large stock pot with water and cook the pasta until just tender, according to the packaged instructions. Drain and set aside.
Grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and preheat the oven to 350F.
Meanwhile, in another large saucepan, over medium heat, melt 2 tbls of butter. Add the diced onion and cook until softened and translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add in the flour, dry mustard, and paprika and whisk to combine. Cook for 2 minutes to get the raw flour taste out. Slowly stream the milk into the pot, whisking constantly to incorporate. Add the bay leaf. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes.
Remove the cheese sauce from the heat and stir in about two-thirds of the shredded cheese until melted. Stir in the maccaroni. Empty about half of the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Layer with half of the remaining cheese. Empty the rest of the mac into the baking dish.
In a small skillet, melt 1 tbls of butter. Add the bread crumbs and stir until lightly browned. Top the mac and cheese with the remaining cheese and finally the toasted bread crumbs.
Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6 as a main course.