It’s my final Melissa’s Menu, and I’ve saved my favorite recipe for last: mac and cheese. Mac and cheese is, in my opinion, the ultimate comfort food. The rich, creamy cheese sauce combined with pasta and topped with crispy breadcrumbs is unmatched. This particular recipe is baked, which really helps create a crispy, golden crust on top. It’s also pretty easy to make. It requires only about 20 minutes of prep time, and you probably already have many of the ingredients on hand. When making baked mac and cheese, there are two helpful tips: Buy blocks of cheese instead of pre-shredded packages and undercook your pasta. Pre-shredded cheese often has a coating that prevents the cheese from clumping, so when you bake it the cheese won’t melt properly. Shred your own blocks of cheese for the best results. Since this is a baked mac and cheese recipe, the pasta will continue to cook once you put it in the oven. To ensure your pasta is perfectly al dente, cook it for about a minute or two less than the package instructs.
If you’d like to upgrade your mac and cheese, add any toppings of your choice! Proteins like buffalo chicken or bacon pair really well with this dish. If you want to make your mac and cheese a little healthier, vegetables like broccoli and mushrooms are a great option. You can add the toppings right on top of the whole dish, or leave them on the side and create a mini mac and cheese bar.
As I leave you with my last Melissa’s Menu, I wanted to say thank you to anyone who has read my column or tried any of my recipes. Food can be an amazing way to express yourself and get creative — never stop trying new recipes or experimenting in the kitchen! Especially now, take advantage of the extra time you have to fuel your body with homemade, delicious recipes.
16 ounces of elbow macaroni, cooked (or other tubular pasta)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/3 cup of all purpose flour
3 cups of whole milk
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
4 cups of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups of Gruyere cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons of butter, melted
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a large three or four quart baking dish and set aside. Combine shredded cheeses in a large bowl and set aside. Cook the pasta one minute shy of al dente according to the package instructions. Remove from heat, drain and place in a large bowl. Drizzle pasta with olive oil and stir to coat pasta. Set aside to cool while preparing cheese sauce. Melt butter in a deep saucepan, dutch oven or stock pot. Whisk in flour over medium heat and continue whisking for about one minute, until bubbly and golden. Gradually whisk in the milk and heavy cream until nice and smooth. Continue whisking until you see bubbles on the surface and then continue cooking and whisking for another two minutes. Whisk in salt and pepper. Add two cups of shredded cheese and whisk until smooth. Add another two cups of cheese and continue whisking until creamy and smooth. The sauce should be nice and thick. Stir in the cooled pasta until combined and pasta is fully coated with the cheese sauce. Pour half of the mac and cheese into the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining two cups of shredded cheese and then the remaining mac and cheese. In a small bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, melted butter and paprika. Sprinkle over the top and bake until bubbly and golden brown, for about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Melissa Scrivani is the associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.