Life takes an unhappy turn sometimes, and during those situations I find it helpful to find peace and joy in comfort food. I haven’t posted anything on the Blog for a couple of months because my mom, otherwise known as Neeners, suffered a pretty big stroke the first of November. The good news is that she is physically as strong as an ox and eats like a horse. The more challenging part of the picture is that her vision is fairly limited now, and short-term memory is a struggle. These issues seem to be improving, but it has resulted in my sister, brother, husband, aunt, and I to adopt an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to making sure she gets the care she needs. I am so thankful for them all, and thankful Neeners is recovering well and has been a pretty good little trooper through the whole thing. She retains her signature warped sense of humor about the whole thing, and relishes kicking me – hard – when we do our leg strengthening exercises together.
Back to comfort food then…..I’ve been making this mac and cheese since my college days, when my roommate shared her mother’s recipe. I’d never hear of such a thing!!! Mac and cheese that didn’t come out of a box??!! Holy cow!!! I’ve been hooked ever since and hope you find this recipe helpful in times of need, or any other time you feel like a big bowl of creamy comfort. To tell the truth, I ALWAYS double this recipe, so if you are so inclined, please feel free. It’s a nice thing to share if you can’t polish off the whole thing yourself and is just right for whenever a crowd appears, seemingly out of nowhere.
From what I can deduce, there are two types of Mac and Cheese lovers – those that like a ton of cheesy sauce, and those that prefer less. I generally fall into the ‘more is better’ camp, and think it’s nearly impossible to have too much sauce. If you are of a different frame of mind, just reduce the amount. A word learned from experience though – the longer this little beauty is baked, or if it is reheated, more sauce may be required. This is due to the fact that even though the pasta is drained and rinsed, it is still very thirsty and will think nothing of slurping up as much sauce as it can get its hands on.
I also like penne pasta for Mac and Cheese because it leaves a lot of space for sauce to hide in and makes quite a nice little surprise when you take a big old bite. And I’m not going to complain for one minute about the little brown crunchy pieces that form of the side of the pan.
…and there you have it. One of my very favorite of all time suppers. I hope you love it as much as I do, and that it comes in handy any time you need a little more happiness in your day.
I’d love to hear from you! If you have any comments or questions about this or other recipes, or a suggestion for a future blog post, please send me an email. I promise to reply to each and every one. Find me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks so much for dropping by. Hope you can join us again next time! xoxoxo
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup flour
- 1-quart milk plus an extra cup of milk just in case you need it (I use 2% just because that’s what I always have on hand)
- Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
- ½ pound pasta (I use penne or mini penne)
- 3 cups grated cheese (I like a combination of cheddar and jack cheese, but use what you like)
- Note: be sure to grate some extra cheese for topping, and if you want to get really wild, make up to 1 cup of ½ inch chunks of cheese to stir in right before baking)
- FOR THE PASTA
- Bring 3 quarts or so of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and return to boil.
- Stir in the pasta and boil for 10 minutes.
- Drain pasta and rinse with cold water to remove excess starch. Set aside.
- FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- When butter has melted, whisk in the flour and stir until smooth and bubbly.
- Slowly pour in milk and whisk until all ingredients are combined. It’s important that you be diligent at this point, so all those little lumps of flour get incorporated. Add salt and pepper.
- Cook mixture on the stove until it comes to a boil, whisking often or you will have a situation on your hands where things start to stick and burn).
- Boil for at least one minute so all of that starchy flour taste cooks out.
- Remove from heat and stir in the grated cheese. Go ahead – give it a taste. If it seems like thing should be cheesier, go on ahead and add some more.
- TO ASSEMBLE
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray a 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Pour in your reserved pasta, then pour the cheese sauce on top.
- Stir to mix well and add extra chunks of cheese at this point if you want.
- Top the entire thing with more grated cheese and pop into the oven.
- Bake only until bubbly around the sides and cheese has melted on the top. Over baking equals dried out mac and cheese because the longer it bakes, the more inclined the pasta is to soak up the sauce.
- Remove from oven and serve right away.