Recipe: Back to Basics – Macaroni and Cheese

Quick show of hands – who grew up on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese?  Who still feeds that to your kids?  OK, that’s everybody. Now who has ever made macaroni and cheese without opening the “cheese packet”?  I thought so.

I had a wild hare last week and bought some elbow macaroni. I’ve had a hankering for some mac n cheese lately, but just couldn’t bring myself to buying a box o’ product. I’m also trying this Barilla pasta product – it tastes a lot better than whole wheat pasta and is better for you. It’s made from a variety of whole grains and legumes and has protein and omega-3s so it’s all good.  So why not add a whole bunch of dairy fat to make it even better? Beats me.
You’ll find that this may take about 5 minutes of work instead of 30 seconds like the Kraft stuff, but what were you going to do with that extra 4 minutes and 30 seconds, anyway? Elapsed time, this will take you 45 minutes, but that’s no big deal. You pop it in the oven and then you have 30 minutes to make the rest of your dinner while this bad boy heats up.
  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 8 oz grated cheese
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 to 1 serrano pepper (or 1/4 jalapeno or red pepper flakes)
The Betty Crocker recipe calls for American cheese or Velveeta, but I stay away from that stuff. But you do want at least one decent melting cheese like a mozzarella or quesadilla. I used a blend of jack, white cheddar, swiss,) and mozzarella. I topped it with parmesan.
Cook macaroni and set aside. While that’s going, go ahead and preheat your oven to 375. Warm the butter and saute onions until they’re translucent. Add flour slowly and stir with the butter until you have a paste – you may not need all the flour. Add milk and bring to a boil – then remove from heat. 
Put the macaroni an an uncovered baking dish, and toss with grated cheese. Pour in the milk mixture, add the peppers, about a teaspoon of salt, and a few turns of freshly grated black pepper. Stir the mixture to distribute contents evenly and bake uncovered at 375 for about 30 minutes. 
Damn. That’s some good stuff. I don’t think I’ll go back to the “side dish in a box” after this.

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