I’ve been trying many Mac & Cheese recipes, tweaking them, trying the quick ones – you name it… I’ve come back to formulating this well-crafted, time-tested comfort food. You’ll love the optional ingredients list too!
This is perfect for a meal (or two, that’s what we get with 3 people). You can double or triple-up, and freeze the extra ones.
- Prep time: 30 mins
- Cook time: 25 mins
- Yield: 5 – 6 servings
- 8 oz. (1/2 pound or about 1¾ cups) macaroni or other medium tubular pasta (like penne or conchiglie)*
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon corn starch (make it thicker…)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika plus more for sprinkling on top
- 2½ cups 2% milk
- 3 cups grated medium cheddar cheese (I like to add at least a couple of varieties here, if possible)
- 1/2 cup of bread crumbs (planko) to the top, before baking
Optional Ingredients – to change it up…
You can add any of the following, to customize your experience:
- sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top (with the bread crumbs above)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- sprinkle parsley on top
- 1/2 cup of jalapeno peppers to the entire mix, before baking
- 1 bay leaf
- Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, and return to the pan you boiled it in. Set aside. (Mix in a little butter to keep the noodles from sticking if it’s going to be awhile before you make the sauce)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Add the flour, salt, dry mustard, pepper, and ⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika. Stir constantly over medium heat for about three minutes.
- Stir in the milk.
- Keeping on medium heat, whisk constantly for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
- Remove from heat, and stir in 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles and toss gently until all noodles are covered.
- Add half the noodles to a two quart casserole dish.
- Sprinkle on half the cheese.
- Add the rest of the noodles.
- Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, and dust lightly with the smoked paprika.
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until it starts getting a slightly dry and a tiny bit brown on top. Serve, topping individual servings with cooked, chopped bacon if desired.