Our daughter started High School today. She wasn’t expecting it to go smoothly. She knew she’d get lost (she did, several times). She knew she’d be late for class because she got lost (she was). She feared she would forget where her locker was or what her lock combination was (she didn’t do that … phew!). She didn’t anticipate missing the bus home (but she did! :)
In anticipation of her big first day of High School, she made one request on the way out the door this morning … Macaroni and Cheese for dinner. She knew she’d need some comfort food tonight for dinner. How could I refuse that request?!
I love baked macaroni and cheese and I’ve tried many recipes over the years. I’ve often been disappointed when they come out dry. I love creamy. For the past few years, this has been my “go to” recipe. Loosely based on a Martha Stewart recipe, this delivers a creamy baked macaroni and cheese with a crunchy topping of buttered saltine crackers. It’s as close to macaroni and cheese perfection as I’ve ever been able to get.
Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Summary: This is my favourite version of macaroni and cheese. It’s creamy and cheesy, with a crunchy topping. Even better the next day!
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing baking dish
- 5 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 5 cups grated sharp (old) cheddar (grated from a block of cheese, not pre-grated)
- 1/2 cup or so grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- For topping:
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar
- 15 saltine crackers
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- Heat oven to 375° F. Butter a 3 quart shallow, rectangular baking dish and set aside.
- Crumble saltine crackers into a small bowl (they shouldn’t be crumbled to a powder but a rough crumble like you would when crumbling into soup, for example). Melt 2 Tbsp. butter, pour over crackers and toss to combine. Set aside.
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Measure out the milk and heat in microwave or additional saucepan until hot. (I like to microwave in a large glass measuring cup).
- Melt 1/2 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture is warmed and slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 5 cups cheddar, and the pecorino Romano or Parmesan. Set cheese sauce aside.
- Add macaroni to boiling water and cook only until the outside of the pasta is cooked but the inside is underdone. (Taste test often!). Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Pour macaroni into the greased baking dish. Pour reserved cheese sauce over macaroni.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and top with buttered, crumbled saltine crackers. Bake another 15 minutes until bubbly around the edges and the crackers are starting to turn golden. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve.
Prep time: 30 min | Cook time: 30 min | Total time: 1 hour
Number of servings (yield): 8
Adapted from a Martha Stewart Recipe | Photo