Midsummer Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

My recipe for macaroni and cheese is adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe, which I’ve modified to make simpler. I’ve been perfecting my version of the recipe for eight years (since 2009), and people absolutely love it. I suggest making this as a side dish for a Midsummer cookout or picnic celebration, though it could also be used for Imbolc, Mabon, or Lughnasadh. I make a double batch every year for Thanksgiving since it’s everyone’s leftover of choice (yes, I’m Southern, that’s why we have macaroni and cheese on Thanksgiving).

Serving Information:

Makes approximately 8 servings, and each serving is about 400 calories depending on what you put in, how much of it you use, etc.

Ingredients:

– 4 tbsp. butter, unsalted
– 12 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
– 3 tbsp. flour, heaping
– 3 cups milk, 2%
– 1 cup panko bread crumbs, plain
– 1/2 pound pasta elbows, with ridges

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Boil macaroni until al dente (usually 1-2 minutes short of suggested cooking time) and put into a casserole dish.

On medium-low heat, melt 2 tbsp. of butter in a pot and whisk in flour. Butter can bubble, but should not burn. Once the flour and butter are incorporated, add milk and turn heat to medium. Keep stirring with the whisk to keep the flour from burning to the bottom of the pot; the milk should bubble, but not reach a rolling boil or foam. Simmer milk for ten minutes. Separate 2/3rds of the shredded cheese, and add to the pot one handful at a time while stirring gently. Once the cheese is fully melted, add the next handful until all the cheese is melted. Pour all of the sauce into the casserole dish, then gently fold it into the macaroni until it’s evenly distributed. Top with remaining cheese.

To make the crunchy topping, microwave or heat remaining butter until completely melted, and mix in Panko bread crumbs thoroughly. The bread crumbs will be lightly buttered, not soaked. Top macaroni with bread crumbs.

Bake for 30 minutes and enjoy!

Tips:

You can use smooth macaroni, of course, but ridges will hold the cheese better. Toss the cooked macaroni with a small amount of olive oil to keep it from sticking together. Clean the pot after you cook the macaroni and you can prepare the cheese sauce in that same pot. You can shred the cheese ahead of time, just toss in a little flour to keep the cheese from sticking together, and to help thicken the sauce. Add a few dashes of ground cayenne pepper to give the macaroni a delicious kick. You can increase the heat to medium-high after you add the milk to start it boiling, just be sure to turn it down again very quickly, since you don’t want the milk to hit a rolling boil. If it gets very hot, things will burn to the bottom and sides, and the pot will become a bear to clean.