One of the most comforting foods of all time, at least to my immediate family, has been reduced to a pre-packaged powder. A DIY science experiment where you boil “A”, then mix with “B” & “C” to create something that really doesn’t resemble what the box says it is. It reminds me of a chemistry kit my kids got. That box says ages 5+. Sounds to me, like the mac’n cheese industry needs to add an age on their box.
Boxed mac‘n cheese. While it will satisfy most college-aged palates, I am far beyond the college years and my kids are quite a distance from entering them. I see no reason why a product that promises so much goodness should be reduced to anything boxed.
For the cheese sauce, I prefer a cheddar / gouda blend. My husband, who likes everything smoked, likes his made with smoked cheeses & I truly do not make it for him, that way, often enough.
While researching a better mac’n cheese, I came across two concepts that cemented my belief that we NEED the real deal. The first piece of magic, one egg. One perfect, versatile egg in the cheese sauce, creates a richness that I have not been able to duplicate, even with heavy cream. The second is panko. I love panko breadcrumbs for just about everything. Add them to the top of the creamy, cheesy, macaroni and you will the perfect balance of creamy & crispy.
One pound of chifferi or elbow shaped pasta cooked very al dente.
One beaten egg
One stick of butter
¼ cup flour
2 ½ cups of milk
Tablespoon of mustard
1-¼ cups shredded cheddar
1-¼ cups cubed Gouda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp cayenne
One cup Panko unseasoned breadcrumbs.
- Premeasure the ingredients while the pasta cooks, drain & set aside.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl.
- In a large saucier or pot, melt ½ the stick of butter.
- When the butter is melted, add the flour & whisk while on medium heat. Dont turn up the heat, you cannot rush this.
- Continue whisking until the mixture starts to smell less like flour & more nutty. Don’t burn it or you’ll have to start over!
- Slowly pour in milk and mustard: keep whisking until smooth & thickened (5 minutes…?)
- Take a ½ cup of the sauce & add it to the bowl of beaten egg, SLOWLY, while stirring briskly. Now dump the egg mixture back into the original pan & whisk it all together.
- Add the cheese stirring until smooth & melted.
- Add the salt, pepper & cayenne and stir well.
- In a 3 quart buttered baking dish combine macaroni with the cheese sauce.
- Now melt the last of the butter (1/2 stick), in a bowl mix the panko with the melted butter until completely combined & sprinkle evenly over the top.
- Bake this in the lower ½ of your oven at 350 for 25 minutes. If the breadcrumbs start to brown too soon, move to the lower quarter of your oven.
- Remove & let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
THIS is Cheesy Macaroni, not mac ‘n cheese.