The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

12:21 AM

Express-ive Meals - Macaroni and Cheese

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

 Macaroni and Cheese - a Different Way

Here is my very simple recipe for a very non-traditional macaroni and cheese that I make at home all the time.  It doesn't take long, and just uses melted cheese, rather than a cheese sauce.

What You Need
1 package of whole wheat rigatoni (or any other pasta you prefer, including macaroni!  However, I like the texture of the rigatoni).
1 lb. of your favorite cheeses.  You can use anything you like here.  It works very well to use a lot of something mild, and a smaller amount of something sharp, but use things that melt well.  Try cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack, colby, or other melty cheeses. (Note: you can use a lot more if you want a truly cheesy experience!  Try using 1.5 lbs. or even 2! The worst that could happen is coronary thrombosis...)
About 4 tablespoons of butter.
About a quarter cup of milk or cream.
Salt and pepper to taste. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degree.
Very lightly grease a baking dish with butter or oil. This helps to keep the pasta from sticking.
Boil your pasta until it is very soft.  Drain it well.
While the pasta is cooking, grate your cheese (if you didn't buy pre-grated cheese).  You can use a coarse grate for this application.
Pour half of the pasta into your baking dish.  Take two tablespoons of the butter, in two separate one tablespoon blocks.  Set one on each side of the pasta dish, just sitting on top of the noodles. Now, pour about half of the milk evenly over the pasta.
Take a little less than half of the cheese, and sprinkle it evenly over the pasta that is in the dish.
Next, pour on the rest of the noodles.  Now, repeat the steps above with the rest of the butter, milk or cream, and cheese.  If you have a small amount of sharper cheese along with a milder cheese, it is best to put the sharper cheese on the top, to aid in the melting process.
Bake the dish in the oven for about ten or fifteen minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted, and the edges just look like they are about to get crispy.
Serve and sprinkle with salt that pepper to taste.
That's it!

Tips and Ideas
Do NOT let the pasta overcook in the oven.  It will become dry and crunchy.
Try using lemon pepper and/or garlic salt.  These make a great combination.
Serve the macaroni and cheese immediately after it is out of the oven, when the cheese is still gooey.
Do not use cheap, poor-quality cheeses.  They do not melt well, and will create a gritty, unpleasant texture.
Do not use solely mozzarella cheese in your dish.  It does not have the necessary flavor to make the dish shine (even though it melts well).
Don't put too much milk, or you will end up with a slimy mess.  Just a little bit, to add some moisture while cooking; that's all you need.

Note: please note that, as I have said before,  I do not actually use measurements when making my dishes.  So the amounts here are really just guesses.  Feel free to play with the measurements to customize it how you like it!  Also, I will update this with pictures the next time I make it.  =-)

The macaroni and cheese I made in the image at the top uses half and half instead of milk, whole wheat penne instead of rigatoni (Trader Joe's didn't have any rigatoni), and is covered with mozzarella, Swiss, Gruyère, Monterey jack, queso blanco, asadero, and cheddar.  This is a mix of a few pre-shredded packaged cheese mixtures.

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