I consider myself to have been a pretty fortunate kid as I grew up eating almost exclusively delicious, homemade food cooked from scratch. I didn’t really discover Kraft Dinner – that ‘love it or hate it’ packaged pasta and sauce mix – until I was in University and by then I was more interested in cooking and eating other things so I never developed a fondness for it. I do appreciate that mac ‘n cheese represents the ultimate comfort food for lots of people – my own kids included, though they’ve always favoured the white cheddar version, not Kraft’s neon orange kind. Interestingly, food mega-corp Kraft announced last year that they are revamping their ubiquitous mac ‘n cheese products, making them lower in sodium and saturated fat, and using spices instead of artificial food dyes. That’s good news, but to my mind, no boxed version will ever rival the creamy, wholesome deliciousness of homemade macaroni and cheese. You can add myriad twists to this dish – stir in crispy crumbled bacon, chopped ham, slivered green onions, diced tomatoes or whatever tasty items you like – to make it your own and impress whomever you are sharing it with. Another tip is to use several single-serving casserole dishes for a more elegant presentation.
- 2 cups (225 grams) macaroni
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) flour
- 2 cups (500 mL) milk
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) paprika or 1/8 teaspoon (.5 grams) cayenne
- 1/8 teaspoon (.5 grams) dry mustard
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups (200 grams) grated extra old white cheddar
- ¾ cup (80 grams) fresh breadcrumbs or Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter, melted
- Optional: dash garlic powder
- Cook macaroni in a medium pot of boiling water until just tender.
- While it’s cooking, make cheese sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
- Gradually whisk in milk, paprika or cayenne, dry mustard and a dash of salt & pepper.
- Simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until smooth and thickened.
- Remove from the heat, stir in 1 ½ cups (150 grams) of grated cheese.
- Prepare breadcrumb topping by combining crumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter and garlic powder if using. Set aside.
- Add the drained macaroni to the sauce, stirring to mix well. Pour half the mixture into a greased 8 inch (20 cm) square casserole dish (or four 1.5 cup/375 mL oven-safe dishes) , then sprinkle with ½ cup (50 grams) more of the grated cheddar.
- Top with remaining noodles and breadcrumb topping.
- Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are browned & cheese sauce is bubbly.
* Make Ahead: you can prepare the cheese sauce up to 24 hours ahead; refrigerate until ready to use then reheat until it is just bubbling. The pasta can also be cooked ahead, drained, and stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator, as can the breadcrumb topping. Simply add the cooked pasta to the hot sauce and proceed as directed.