Doable Dinners: Macaroni is better with (never too much) cheese

  • When in doubt, add more cheese. FOR THE GAZETTE/ROBIN TESERO

  • Smooth the top of the macaroni and cheese before adding the bread crumb topping. FOR THE GAZETTE/ROBIN TESERO

  • It’s very important to make macaroni and cheese as creamy and cheesy as possible so it stays that way after it bakes. FOR THE GAZETTE/ROBIN TESERO

  • This baked macaroni and cheese is filed under “more for mom and dad.” FOR THE GAZETTE/ROBIN TESERO

For the Gazette
Published: 12/7/2019 11:00:17 AM

What kid does not like baked macaroni and cheese? Or should I rephrase that: Are my kids the only kids that do not like baked mac and cheese? My kids also do not like grilled cheese sandwiches. I wonder if anyone else relates. My husband and I look at each other in disbelief and shrug our shoulders. After years of Annie’s boxed mac and cheese, I am boycotting the powdered cheese packs.

This recipe is filed under, “more for mom and dad” and “let them figure out what they are missing” categories. So because I have nothing to fear about our picky eaters trying this recipe, I can add whatever I see fit and ignore the little cricket on my shoulder that whispers, “the kids won’t like that ingredient.” This is super easy and you’ll love it and I am sure YOUR kids will too!

It is very important to make it as creamy and cheesy as possible and for it stay that way after it bakes. Do not make dried out baked macaroni and cheese, you will be disappointed. So when in doubt, add more cheese! Sharp cheddar is a great choice but you can use whatever is in your fridge. Gruyere is also another good one, I think the sharper the better. It is hard to go wrong with lots of cheese. I like to use a box of cavatappi but any tubular pasta will work (my favorite pasta brand is De Cecco).

Baked macaroni and cheese

1 stick of butter (4 tablespoons for the sauce and 4 tablespoons for the breaded topping)
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 pound of cavatappi or other tubular pasta
1 pound of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons flour
1 to 2 cups whole milk
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
3 oz packaged crispy onions
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

First, boil water with salt and cook the pasta until just before it is al dente, so if the package says 8 minutes until al dente then let it cook for 7 minutes. Drain and add olive oil while you make the cheesy sauce.

I start with a bechamel sauce. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add 4 tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Do not let the garlic burn, just let it bubble in the butter — it will smell delicious. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk quickly, then add a cup of whole milk. Stream in more milk if it seems too dry. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens then you can add a cup of sour cream and the grated sharp cheddar cheese. You can use pre-shredded cheese but it melts better when you grate it yourself. Add the cayenne pepper, mustard powder, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and a healthy pinch of black pepper. Keep whisking and let it bubble until smooth. Add the very al dente pasta to the cheese mixture and mix until the pasta is covered. Transfer to a 4-quart baking dish. Smooth out the top to be ready for the breaded topping.

In a pan, combine the panko bread crumbs and 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the crispy onions, paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper and let the bread crumb mixture brown a little. Remove from heat, add the Parmesan cheese and spread evenly over the pasta and cheese sauce mixture. YUM! Bake at 350 for 20 minutes and serve immediately.

Robin Tesoro co-founded the marinara sauce company Ooma Tesoro’s with her husband and serves as the creative director. She’s a mother of two and a modern art painter in her free time.

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