Make Mine Mac & Cheese/ Kosher Recipes

There’s something about digging into a bowl of macaroni and cheese that brings out the kid in all of us. With car pools, busy schedules and extracurricular galore we’ve all defaulted to whipping up the boxed variety and calling it dinner more often than we’d probably like to admit. It’s nice to know, however, that if you take that extra 10 or 15 minutes of time the made from scratch variety of macaroni and cheese (or a doctored boxed version) can become a gourmet dish with unlimited potential to please everyone from a finicky whiney hungry four year old to the finicky whiney hungry four year old within us all.

So what makes the difference between a so-so macaroni and cheese recipe and a great one? The cheeses used, the pasta used and the method you use to prepare it.

Elbow macaroni pasta is the traditional pasta used in macaroni and cheese (duh) but you can actually substitute any type of cooked pasta that you like. Some styles will work better than others. Smaller curved shapes, like cork screw, bow tie and shell are great alternatives to elbow macaroni and hold on to the cheese sauce better than  spaghetti or angel hair pasta.  Cheddar is usually the cheese of choice. You can choose from yellow or white cheddar and sharp or mild cheddar. All work great. American cheese is another popular choice. Note, however, American cheese is a processed product (additives, preservatives etc) and is a fairly bland cheese flavor compared to Cheddar. Swiss, Gouda and Havarti cheeses are better choices but they give the cheese sauce a very different flavor. Parmesan can be used but should be used in conjunction with other cheeses. Of course, you can always combine any of the above cheeses to suit your taste.

The white sauce method is considered the classic version of macaroni and cheese. It starts with a white sauce (butter, flour, and milk) with cheese added to the hot sauce. This method is usually baked. The layered method is created when cooked noodles and grated cheeses are layered in a baking dish, then covered with milk and baked. The stovetop method is never baked. It’s prepared on the stove and served immediately.

So what’s the very best macaroni and cheese recipe? The answer is which ever one is in front of you right now. The following recipes are all easy to prepare, run the gamut from mellow to spicy and best of all, can be on the table in 30 to 40 minutes.

 

MACARONI AND CHEESE PIZZA

This is a guilty pleasure meal that my children loved to make when they were first learning how to cook.

 

2 boxes of packaged macaroni and cheese mix
2 eggs
2 cups readymade pizza sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and set it aside. Cook macaroni and cheese as directed on the box. Add the eggs to the mixture and mix to combine. Spread the mixture on the prepared cookie sheet, making sure to spread the mixture so that it’s no more than about an inch thick. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and spread the pizza sauce over the top. Sprinkle the cheeses over the top. Return the “pizza” to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is bubbly and lightly golden. Serves 6.

SPICY MACARONI AND CHEESE

This recipe is based on one I originally saw in Gourmet Magazine. I tweaked it a little and came up with something really spicy and delicious.

 

1 1/2 cups finely chopped leeks

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon chili powder (or more to taste)

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

4 cups milk

1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, well drained

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack

1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar

1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs

1 cup grated Parmesan

 

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9X13 pan and set it aside. In a large heavy saucepan combine the butter, leeks, the garlic, chili powder and the cumin and cook, over a low heat, stirring, until the onion becomes soft. When the onions are soft stir in the flour, and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the milk to the onion mixture, whisking constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly and then whisk in the tomatoes. Simmer the mixture for 2 minutes and add the salt and pepper to taste.

 

In boiling salted water cook the macaroni for 6 to 7 minutes, or until it is barely al dente, drain it well. Place the cooked macaroni in a large bowl. Add the tomato mixture. Stir in the Monterey Jack and the Cheddar cheese. Spoon the mixture in the prepared pan. In another bowl combine the bread crumbs and the Parmesan. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni mixture. Place the casserole in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is golden and bubbling. Serves 6 to 8.

BROCCOLI AND CHEESE WITH MACARONI

16 ounces elbow macaroni
2 cups broccoli florets fresh or frozen
8 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons four
4 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs

 

Grease a 9 x 9 inch glass baking dish. Preheat oven to 375. In a medium saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions, until al dente, or still slightly firm. Drain well. Fill another saucepan 3/4 full with water. Bring water to a boil, add broccoli, reduce heat to medium and cook until al dente; Drain the broccoli and set it aside. In a medium sized saucepan melt the butter. Over a medium heat add the flour, stirring for 1 minute until the mixture is smooth. Gradually whisk in the milk, stirring continually until thickened, about 3 minutes, remove the sauce from the heat.  Set aside 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Stir the remaining Cheddar, Gruyere, Parmesan, salt, and cayenne into the sauce until the cheeses melt. Add the cooked macaroni and broccoli to sauce. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake 15 minutes. Sprinkle the top with reserved cheddar and bread crumbs. Bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly. Serves 6 to 8.

 

BAKED MAC AND CHEESE DECADENCE

 

2 cups medium shell pasta
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter, plus 2 tbsp. for topping
2 cups milk
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 cups shredded/grated cheese (I cup Cheddar, 1 cup Gruyere, 1 cup Parmesan)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

 

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9X13 casserole dish and set it aside. Cook pasta according to package directions until just under al dente. Drain well and set aside.  In a large saucepan melt the 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook 1 minute, whisking and then whisk in the milk, whisking continually until the mixture is smooth. Continue cooking and as soon as it thickens add the nutmeg and stir. Add the cheeses a little bit at a time, stirring continually until the cheese is melted and combined. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture and mix well to combine. Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Combine the rosemary and thyme with the breadcrumbs and spread evenly over the top, coating well. Break up the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and sprinkle them over the top of the breadcrumbs.  Bake, uncovered, until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbling. About 30 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.

 

OOEY GOOEY MAC AND CHEESE

Marshall Shafkowitz, chef at Le Cordon Bleu created this recipe and this is my variation of his version. Be warned this recipe is not for the calorie conscious.

 

1 gallon of milk

1 of shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 pound smoked Gouda

12 tablespoons of butter

1 cup flour

2 cups saltine crackers, crushed

salt and pepper

1 pound uncooked Macaroni or corkscrew pasta

 

Fill a large pot 1/2 way with hot water. Add a pinch of salt and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils add the noodles and cook at a slow boil.

 

Pour the milk into another large pot and bring it to a simmer. While the milk is heating melt the butter in a skillet. When the butter is completely melted add the flour all at once and whisk to combine and the mixture pulls away from the side of the skillet. As soon as this happens remove the mixture from the heat and put the mixture to a large bowl.

 

Preheat oven to 350. Take roughly 2 cups of the hot milk and pour it over the flour/ butter mixture and whisk until the mixture is combined. When this mixture is smooth add it to the remaining hot milk and whisk until combined. Let the milk mixture cook, over a low heat, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

Drain your pasta and then place it in a casserole dish. Slowly add the cheese to the milk mixture. Stir continually to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan. When all the cheese is mixed in season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and stir until all the pasta is coated with sauce. Sprinkle the crushed crackers on the top of the casserole and bake for 5 to 10 minutes. Serves 8 to 10.

 

SOUTHWEST MAC AND CHEESE

 

2 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup diced onions

1/2 to 1 cup red, yellow and green bell peppers, finely diced

1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder

1 1/2 cups milk

2 cups whipping cream

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large can, white albacore tuna, in water, drained

3/4 teaspoon salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound penne or other pasta, cooked according to package directions and drained

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup slice green onions, including green part

In a large saute pan combine the butter onions, chili powder and peppers and saute, over a low heat until vegetables begin to soften and turn golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the milk and cream in the sauce pan and bring the mixture it to a simmer. Add the cheeses and stir well until the cheeses are completely melted. Add the tuna and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Season with salt and pepper.  Continue to simmer another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the drained pasta and mix well. Place the mixture in serving bowl and top with a dollop sour cream. Garnish with the sliced green onions. Serves 6 to 8.

 

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