Mac n’ cheese seems to be the “it” thing for a lot kids. Most kids not only like it, but they go absolutely bonkers for it.
My kids fall into that category.
Before I learned how to make it from scratch, Kraft “Thick and Creamy” lived in our pantry. I could easily blame myself for their addiction, considering it’s something that was consumed on a regular basis while I was pregnant with both of them. And I’m not talking about a little bowl of it, I’m talking about an ENTIRE BOX.
At one time.
All 1,100 calories.
There were no leftovers.
Did I care that I gained 40 pounds with each pregnancy? Um, no. I was providing nourishment for my babies. That processed box of heaven was giving them nutrition, and that’s the excuse I was sticking to.
After attending culinary school, I grew some cojones and started making it from scratch. Grating fresh sharp cheddar cheese and parmesan, melting it in the bechamel sauce and stirring in those freshly boiled noodles before topping it with more cheese and baking it. Holy crap… Kraft who?? You’re fired.
Once the second kid came around, I got lazy and went back to the boxed stuff for a while, just until he got older and my sanity somewhat started to come back. I won’t lie though, I will still grab the boxed stuff every now and then, just because I still think it tastes delicious.
My daughter recently started asking for it again, because that’s what she was used to before her little brother came along. She was known as the “kid who only ate hot meals” at her old school because she refused to eat cold sandwiches. So, I’d make that mac n’ cheese for her and send it in little glass microwave safe containers that the teachers would pop in the microwave for her.
Should’ve sent in a silver spoon for her to eat it with.
Either way, this stuff was nicknamed “mac ‘n crack” by one of my customers, and my daughter starts squealing like a rabid monkey when I tell her we’re having it for dinner. Or, is it me who does that? I can’t tell anymore.
Creamy Baked Mac n’ Cheese
8 oz. uncooked elbow macaroni (make this gluten-free by using GF elbow pasta)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour (make this gluten-free by using GF all purpose flour)
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese (plus a little extra for sprinkling on top)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside. Melt butter in a pot on medium heat and add flour, whisk until smooth and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk to flour mixture, whisking constantly until smooth. Add salt and pepper. Continue to cook on medium heat for 14-15 minutes, or until sauce is thickened, stirring occasionally. While sauce is cooking, grate cheddar cheese. Add all but 1 cup of cheddar cheese, stir. Add Parmesan cheese and stir again, until sauce is smooth and cheeses are melted. Remove sauce from heat and stir in drained pasta. Pour mixture into 8×8 inch baking dish, sprinkle with leftover cheddar. Bake, uncovered, for about 30-35 minutes. Remove dish from oven, let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
This reheats and freezes very well! Great as leftovers and freezer meals!
DOUBLE THIS RECIPE FOR MORE!! Use a 9×13 inch baking dish and take it as a potluck!
Freezer Meal Instructions: Distribute into foil containers or baking dishes, cover, store in freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before baking, or bake directly from freezer and add an extra 30 minutes to baking time.