Monday, March 8, 2010

MACARONI AND CHEESE - heirloom recipe for great food without a box or tray

So, the gauntlet is tossed. I have pleaded for us all to reexamine the value we place on our food and to consider cooking our own meals as an exercise in economy, self confidence, creativity, etc. While I do not have any intention of becoming a recipe site, I think it would be fair to publish a few simple and basic recipes.

Here is a food near and dear to most American tastes – macaroni and cheese. I must admit, I shudder every time I hear how good some mac and cheese is – only to discover it is Stouffers frozen. I am not a food snob and I am not a purist. Stir fried cabbage and Kraft deluxe mac & cheese is a guilty pleasure of mine when I am in a hurry.

But, if you are going to make real baked macaroni and cheese – and you want to earn bragging rights for flavor, cost and yummability - this is how you do it.


1) 1box of macaroni (4 cups or 1 pound)
2) 3 cups grated cheddar or Colby cheese
3) 2 cups milk
4) 2 eggs *optional
5) 4 tablespoons butter
6) 3 tablespoons flour
7) ½ teaspoon Pepper
8) 1 teaspoon mustard *optional


• Coarsely grate the cheese 2 cups is enough, 4 is extravagant

• Butter a 3 quart (9 X 13 inches) casserole dish

• Preheat oven to 375°F.

• Boil 1lb (4 cups or 1 box) of elbow macaroni until fully cooked

• Prepare a white sauce as follows
       1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat
       2. When the butter bubbles add the flour
       3. Stir constantly and vigorously, for a minute
       4. Add the milk
       5. Stir in the eggs – you can leave this out with no ill effect
       6. Stir in the pepper and the mustard
       7. Continue cooking and stirring for 2 minutes or until thick and creamy

• Pour the cooked macaroni into the casserole dish

• Mix in the grated cheese

• Pour the white sauce over the top

• Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top

• Allow it to sit for 5 to 15minutes to set, then serve

Notes: The eggs are great to add body to the dish but are not required. If you want it extra crusty, sprinkle some bread crumbs on top before you bake. You can also adjust the amount of cheese and mustard to suit your tastes without too much worry. The white sauce helps to form a thick sauce and lets you cut back on the cheese if you want or need to. You can also be flexible with what type of cheese. Pure cheddar is tasty, but it does not cook well. Mixing in some Colby or fontina or any other good melting cheese will help. By the way, this recipe can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.

So there it is, a recipe for macaroni and cheese that will surely make you a convert to home cooking. Simple living and cooking do not have to be mutually exclusive. Once you have a handful of recipes like this under your belt, you will see the light. Your home may not be an old farm homestead, and you may not be a seasoned cook yet. But, prepare and serve this heirloom recipe and you will think you are sitting at your grandparents table. You will also be well on your way to confidently preparing your own meals from scratch.

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