When I asked Nick what I should make, he said macaroni and cheese and I kinda turned my nose up thinking, yeah, we'll just nuke some from those little packets that come in the blue box. Nope! That's not what he wanted. He said he'd like home made. Now that came as a total surprise because the last time I made it was many, many years ago and he said he didn't like it, he wanted the stuff out of the blue box. He did try it, and blue box was still his preference. That was then, and this is now.
I make my macaroni and cheese the same way my mom always did, quick and budget-wise, but to me it's the best.
Start with a big pot of water and bring to a boil:
|I'm so glad I cleaned the stove earlier....|
When it's boiling, add in about a pound and a half of elbow macaroni. Any brand, this is just what I had in the pantry. I had big macaroni too, but I've never tried it that way, so stuck with what I know works:
Grate about a pound or more, or more, of extra sharp cheddar cheese - lots of yumminess:
I doubt my mom ever used this, but sometimes it comes in handy, and decided to go ahead and spray the pan with it, because sometimes that cheese likes to stick! I just bought this a couple weeks ago after not using anything like it for many, many years:
This is the pan. A 9 x 13 glass dish, and you'll see why it helps to have clear glass here shortly:
After the elbows are cooked, drain them nicely and while still hot, start layering them with the cheese. I started with elbows, made 3 layers total ending with cheese on top. Something I did do differently here that my mom never did, and I've never done before either, was to take some good old Kraft American cheese slices and lay 6 of them across the first layer, and then 5 across the second layer, no reason for the specific numbers other than 6 fit nicely and 5 more was all I had out without digging more out of the refrigerator. Then I put the grated cheddar over the top of the slices. It was an experiment: (ignore those onions, I hadn't put them away after bringing them in from the garage where it isn't hot in the winter but is now- they won't last long when the garage is over 105)
And wait, what's that white stuff? It's milk! Just pour it cold, straight from the carton over the top of all that glorious cheesiness until it's about 2/3 or 3/4 to the top (see why clear glass is helpful?), then if you're like me, sprinkle it liberally with pepper. Notice that one end has far less pepper, Nick isn't gung-ho on too much pepper, yet ;) I also forgot to tell you, season with salt when you boil your pasta, or when you're layering if you prefer, or heck, wait until it's on the table, but really, it's better if you salt it a little ahead of time, just don't go overboard.
Bake for 45 - 60 minutes in a 375 degree oven (what IS that alt+xxx code to make the degree symbol?) Keep watch during that last 15 minutes or so, so that you don't overcook the top. Uh, I guess you can tell we dug into it before I got the photo, but this way, it shows that nice crispy, crunchiness of the top layer of cheese, and the yumminess of the cheesy elbows. And I noticed no difference in taste or texture from including the Kraft cheese slices.
You might note that this is not one of those ooey-gooey, creamy, pasty type of macaroni and cheeses. I don't like the ones where the sauce is a minimum of cheese and thickened with flour, ugh! It's really somewhat dry by comparison, but this is what I grew up on and this is what I think is ultimately, the best way to make mac & cheese. I like others, but this is the best!
Oh, and Nick enjoyed it too, but even before he tasted it, he was saying how it looks like it would be good with those crispy fried onions in it (I use them in my tuna noodle casserole), and then, that it would probably be good with chicken in it too. Funny guy. Don't adulterate my mac & cheese, though I have to admit, I was thinking of thinly slicing one of those onions and adding some to the dish but didn't think he'd go for it. Next time!