19 9 / 2011
Everyone needs a classic mac & cheese recipe in their collection and I think I find mine. I have tried several macaroni & cheese recipes, but this one is my favorite. Move over Velveeta! The cheese sauce is very smooth with the combination of milk and the variety of cheeses. Cheddar alone can make a very grainy cheese sauce. The cheddar and the colby jack tastes balance each other nicely. The bread crumb topping adds a texture and is the perfect way to top off this dish.
In addition to the creamy cheese sauce & bursting flavor I love this recipe because you can make this ahead of time. It is very convenient that it can be refrigerated it up to two days! By not baking it right away the taste and quality of the dish are not affected. I made this recently when we had some vegetarian friends visiting and it was a good hit. I served it as the main course along with salad, but it would be an excellent side dish as well.
Toasted Bread Crumb Topping:
4 slices sandwich bread, quartered (I used whole wheat)
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbs minced fresh parsley
salt and pepper
Pasta & Cheese Sauce:
1 pound pasta shapes
6 Tbs unsalted butter
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dry mustard (I used 1 Tablespoon prepared)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 1/2 cups milk (low-fat is fine)
1 pound colby jack cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
8 oz extra-sharp cheddar, shredded (about 2 cups)
ground black pepper
Bread Crumb Topping:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Pulse the bread and butter in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 6 pulses. Spread the crumbs out over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and dry, 20-30 minutes. Let the crumbs cool, then toss with parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Macaroni & Cheese:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Bring water to a boil in a large dutch oven set over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave in the colander.
Wipe the pot dry, and add the butter, and set it over medium heat until melted. Stir in the garlic, mustard, and cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk, and bring to a simmer. Whisking often, cook until large bubbles form on the surface and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Stir the drained pasta into the cheese sauce, breaking up any clumps, until well combined. Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish and sprinkle with crumb topping.
Bake uncovered, until the sauce is bubbling and the crumbs are crisp, 25-35 minutes.
To store and serve later: Wrap the dish tightly with foil, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To serve, bake in a 400 degree oven until the filling is hot throughout, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook until the crumbs are crisp, 15-20 minutes.