March 3, 2011 § Leave a comment
When we were younger, my sister Laura loved Stouffer’s microwaveable macaroni and cheese dinners. For the longest time, her after-school routine consisted of throwing her bookbag on the floor after getting home, walking to the fridge and pulling out a mac and cheese dinner, nuking it for two minutes, and then plopping herself in front of the television.
I, on the other hand, hated the stuff. I wasn’t a fan of dairy products in general, and everytime she’d pull out that tray of yellow gunk, I’d gag a little, which was a shame because mac and cheese seemed like such a quintessentially American food and I was all about the hamburgers, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes while growing up.
Then, when I got to college, something changed. Maybe it was because I started baking brie for wine and cheese gatherings and making grilled cheese sandwiches for quick dinners, but one day I went to Trader Joe’s and randomly picked up their four cheese macaroni, and since then, I’ve been hooked.
This past Thanksgiving, I decided it was high time to do a homemade version and went with Ina Garten’s classic, topped with sliced tomato and fresh breadcrumbs. It was a big hit among the guests, but when I made it again last night, I decided to do away with all the embellishments. Even when cut in half, the recipe has a high yield. But for someone who’s trying to get into the habit of cooking batches of food and then saving them for meals during the week, it totally works.
And in relation to a “flexitarian” lifestyle, this obviously falls under “unrestricted” meals due to the generous amounts of butter, milk, Gruyere, sharp cheddar, and parmesan. It’s well worth it though.
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 oz Gruyere, grated
4 oz extra-sharp cheddar (I like Cabot)
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling and salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan but don’t let it boil. In a deep skillet, melt the butter and then add the flour. Cook over low heat for about 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute until it thickens a little and reaches a smooth consistency. Off the heat, add the cheeses and the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and mix well. Pour into a 8 x 8 baking dish or whatever else fits. Top with grated parmesan. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the mac and cheese is bubbly.