Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Basic Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Helllllooooooo!!!!!  You may have (or more likely, may NOT have - ha!) been wondering where I've been and what I've been doing!??  Honestly, I've been home - but have not been cooking like I had hoped I would be.  My poor kids and hubby.  They have been subjected to frozen food and eating out for the last week.  Okay, it's not really as torturous as it sounds :-) 

But, it's been a banner week for me as I juggle having kids and just every day life.  Tell me you have had weeks like that where you are thankful for conveniences like Costco frozen pizzas, Chipotle and boxed Mac n Cheese (gasp!).

Well, I think I'm getting back on track!  Woo hoo!  And speaking of mac and cheese, I actually made another homemade macaroni and cheese.  I love homemade mac and cheese, and love making different variations.  Here is a very basic mac and cheese, and is basic to make as well - a bonus for those busy, busy days!

When I made this, I had a "sending off" party that I was attending, so I threw this in the oven, and left the rest to my 16 year old daughter.  I asked her to take pictures, and here is what she came up with :-)

Basic Baked Macaroni & Cheese
original recipe by The Williams Sonoma Cookbook, pg. 125
adapted recipe by Kitchen Groovy

1 lb. favorite small pasta
3 C skim milk
6 T unsalted butter
1/4 C all purpose flour
1 lb. extra sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
3/4 C fresh bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a 9x13 baking dish.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta, stir well, and cook for about 6 minutes.  The pasta will still be quite al dente, it will cook further in the oven.  Do not overcook.  Drain thoroughly.

While the pasta is draining, in a saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan.  In another saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 T of the butter.  Whisk in the flour and reduce the heat to low.   Let the flour mixture bubble, whisking occasionally and without browning, for 2 minutes.  Gradually whisk in the hot milk, raise the heat to medium, and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat, add the cheeses, and stir until the  cheeses are melted.  Return the pasta to the pot and stir well.  Season to taste with salt.  

In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 T butter over medium heat.  Spread the pasta evenly in the baking dish, sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and bacon, and drizzle the melted butter evenly over the crumbs.  Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the top is browned, about 40 minutes.  Serve hot, directly from the baking dish.

Chef Note: the original recipe calls for 1/2 lb. cheddar, 1/2 lb. monterey jack cheese.  That sounds delish, but it's also really good with straight cheddar. 

Variations: You could add shredded chicken and omit the bacon for a healthier twist.

This is what happens when I leave her in charge with a camera :-)

Please click here for a printable version of this recipe - Kitchen Groovy

Enjoy and live with gusto!

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