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Old Fashioned Mac and Cheese Recipe

Classic Comfort: Old Fashioned Mac and Cheese Recipe

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There’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese to evoke feelings of warmth and nostalgia. This Old Fashioned Mac and Cheese recipe is a timeless favorite that brings together creamy cheddar cheese, tender elbow macaroni, and a crunchy breadcrumb topping for the ultimate comfort food experience. Join us as we guide you through each step of creating this beloved dish and offer tips for making it your own.

Ingredients:

For the Mac and Cheese:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  2. Cook the Macaroni: Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  3. Make the Cheese Sauce: In a large saucepan, melt 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and ground mustard, and cook for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is smooth and bubbling.
  4. Add the Milk and Half and Half: Gradually whisk in the milk and half and half, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Stir in the Cheese: Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the shredded cheddar cheese until melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Combine the Sauce and Macaroni: Add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce, stirring until evenly coated.
  7. Prepare the Topping: In a small bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs with the melted butter, tossing until evenly coated.
  8. Assemble and Bake: Transfer the mac and cheese mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs evenly over the top.
  9. Bake in the Oven: Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the cheese sauce is bubbling.
  10. Serve and Enjoy: Remove the mac and cheese from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley or additional shredded cheese, if desired.

Cook’s Notes and Variations:

Now that you’ve mastered the basic recipe, let’s explore some tips and variations to customize this dish to your liking:

  • Add Bacon: For a smoky twist, add cooked and crumbled bacon to the mac and cheese before baking.
  • Experiment with Cheese: While cheddar cheese is traditional for mac and cheese, feel free to experiment with different cheese blends such as Monterey Jack, Gruyere, or fontina for unique flavor combinations.
  • Make it Spicy: Kick up the heat by adding a pinch of cayenne pepper or diced jalapenos to the cheese sauce.
  • Try Different Pasta Shapes: While elbow macaroni is classic for mac and cheese, you can use any pasta shape you like, such as shells, penne, or rotini.

Keto and Low Carb Versions:

For those following a keto or low-carb lifestyle, here are some modifications you can make to adapt this recipe:

  • Use Cauliflower: Substitute cooked cauliflower florets for the elbow macaroni to create a low-carb alternative.
  • Replace Flour with Xanthan Gum: Use xanthan gum or another low-carb thickener instead of flour to thicken the cheese sauce.
  • Use Heavy Cream: Replace the half and half and milk with heavy cream for a richer, lower-carb sauce.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

As you embark on your culinary journey, you may have some questions. Here are answers to some common queries about making Old Fashioned Mac and Cheese:

Q: Can I use pre-shredded cheese for this recipe? A: While pre-shredded cheese is convenient, it often contains anti-caking agents that can affect the texture of the sauce. For the best results, we recommend shredding your own cheese from a block.

Q: Can I make this dish ahead of time? A: Yes, you can assemble the mac and cheese up to a day in advance and refrigerate it until ready to bake. You may need to increase the baking time slightly if baking from cold.

Q: Can I freeze leftovers of this dish? A: Yes, you can freeze leftover mac and cheese in an airtight container for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake in the oven until heated through.

Q: Can I add vegetables to this dish? A: Absolutely! Feel free to add diced vegetables such as broccoli, peas, or spinach to the mac and cheese for added flavor and nutrition.

Q: Can I make this dish gluten-free? A: Yes, you can use gluten-free pasta and a gluten-free flour blend to make this recipe gluten-free. Be sure to check the labels of all ingredients to ensure they are gluten-free.

In conclusion, Old Fashioned Mac and Cheese is a timeless favorite that’s perfect for any occasion. With its creamy cheese sauce, tender pasta, and crunchy breadcrumb topping, this dish is sure to be a hit with the whole family. Whether you’re serving it as a side dish at a holiday gathering or enjoying it as a comforting meal on a cozy night in, mac and cheese never fails to disappoint. So why wait? Give this recipe a try and enjoy a taste of classic comfort that’s sure to leave you feeling satisfied and content!

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