New Meal Monday: Cheddar Baked Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is an all-time classic dish.  It can be eaten as a side, or as a main course, and can be made a variety of ways.  People tend to add all sorts of different ingredients, flavors, or takes on this meal, but its the constants--noodles, plus oodles of cheese--that make it a favorite to people of all ages!  I have probably eaten a hundred different styles of mac and cheese, and I can say I've never been disappointed--because with those mainstays its tough to go wrong.
This recipe is for the person that loves cheddar cheese! We adapted this slightly to our own taste, but we were inspired by one of our most popular cookbooks, the Cabot Creamery Cookbook, which as you can imagine is great for any cheese lover!  We love making this as a side for either hosting, or bringing with us somewhere.  We like to do a lot of the prep in advance, clean up, and then just pop in the oven shortly before we're ready to serve!  (this recipe is good for about 6-8 servings)

What you'll need:

  • 2 1/4 Cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 Cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Cups milk
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1lb Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated

How you'll do it:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Butter an approximately 13" x 9" baking dish
  3. Bring large pot of water to a boil, stir in macaroni. Return to boil and cook until macaroni is cooked, but still a bit on the firmer side (follow package instructions). Drain macaroni in a colander and rinse under cold water. Set aside
  4. Put empty macaroni pot over medium-low heat and melt butter. Place bread crumbs in a bowl and spoon 2 tbsp. of melted butter over breadcrumbs and mix well and set breadcrumbs aside.
  5. In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once simmering, lower heat, cover and keep warm.
  6. Return pot with melted butter to low heat, and whisk in flour until smooth then cook 1 min, whisking constantly. 
  7. Gradually whisk in warm milk, cover over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture is thickened and bubbly.
  8. Remove sauce from heat and whisk in salt, pepper, nutmeg and 2 cups of cheddar.
  9. Once mixture is well blended, stir in macaroni.
  10. Spread one-third of pasta mixture over bottom of baking dish. Spread one-third of remaining cheese on top.
  11. Spread another 1/3 of past on top and add cover with another 1/3 of cheddar.
  12. Top with remaining pasta. Mix remaining cheese with breadcrumbs and sprinkle evenly over top.*
  13. Bake for 25-30 min (or until golden on top and bubbling throughout.
  14. let stand 10 min and enjoy!

*This is the point, where if we were making ahead, we would cover and refrigerate.  Prior to baking we would remove from fridge, allow to get closer to room temperature, uncover and bake.