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Homemade Macaroni and Cheese That Would Curl Jefferson's Toes.
Rumor Has It
It is said that Thomas Jefferson loved macaroni and cheese. He traveled to France and to northern Italy where he first came into contact with pasta. Jefferson drew pictures of the pasta and of the noodle making process. After arriving back in America in the late 1700's, he commissioned the American ambassador to France, William Short, to buy a machine to make the pasta. The machine ended up not being a suitable choice and he decided on importing the macaroni from overseas. Thomas served the dish at a state dinner and since then, it has been associated with American cuisine.
My children LOVE this dish. They ask for it, they crave it, they truly are all about this mac and cheese. I think it is the perfect choice for picky eaters because you could leave the topping off if you needed to. Some kids are adamant against the breadcrumb topping. However, I wouldn't remove it unless it was necessary, it takes this macaroni and cheese to a total different playing field. This macaroni and cheese starts with the making of a Bechamel' sauce, but by adding grated cheese to it, alas it becomes a Mornay sauce. This is stick to your ribs, cold night, comfort food. It is also very versitile, as it is really easy to alter the type of cheese used by subbing for ones your prefer over others you may not be very fond of. However, I do want to stress that having a cheese mixed in with a sharp flavor is important because it does not get lost among the other seasonings and does not become bland.
Yes, yes, I know. I know there is a can of mystery condensed cheddar soup in here. This is honestly one of the very few recipes in my repertoire that do contain condensed soup. I do normally try to avoid it completely or make my own version to replace it in a recipe, if possible. I use it in this recipe because I think it aids in adding a silky, smooth texture to the sauce that I haven't been able achieve otherwise. It also adds a distinct flavor to this dish that I think makes it appealing to young kids, it resembles "Stouffers" in consistency. Alternatively, you could leave it out...I can't promise the texture would be the same. But if you are dead set against using it, just use the Mornay sauce or make a substitute for the condensed soup. If you do decide to go this route, let me know how it turns out!! I'd love to know.
- 6 Tablespoons Unsalted butter,, divided
- 4 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
- 4 cups Milk
- 1 Tablespoon Ground Mustard
- 1 Tablespoon Paprika
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 3 teaspoons Onion Powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
- pinch to 1/8 Red Cayenne Pepper, (to taste for level of heat)
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 can Condensed Cheddar Soup
- 8 ounces Sharp Yellow Cheddar, grated
- 8 ounces Extra Sharp White Cheddar, grated
- 1/2 Cup Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs
- 1 cup Torn into pieces bread, (any kind of bread you have is fine)
- Butter a 9x13 baking dish, set aside. Melt 4 Tablespoons butter in a large saucepan. While the butter is melting, take a separate saucepan warm the milk but do not bring to a boil. (You could microwave if needed).
- Add 4 Tablespoons of flour to the melted butter. Whisk together to make a thick roux. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in a small microwave safe bowl. In a separate bowl, tear bread into small pieces and add in Italian breadcrumbs. Pour the 2 Tablespoons of melted butter over and mix so that all the bread is coated.
- Add heated milk to the large saucepan containing the milk and butter. Whisk continuously until sauce begins to boil and thicken. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This is your Bechamel' sauce in the making.
- Once mixture has thickened, reduce heat to medium-low and add all of the seasonings.
- Bring a separate pot of lightly salted water to a boil, add elbow macaroni and cook until VERY firm. 5-6 minutes. Drain, set aside.
- Add cheddar soup and grated cheese to Bechamel sauce. By adding cheese to the sauce you are now making a "Mornay" sauce. Stir until smooth. Once smooth add the cooked elbow macaroni to the cheese sauce and fully incorporate.
- Transfer to a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Top with buttered breadcrumbs and pieces. Bake for 25 minutes until top is golden brown and cheese is bubbly.
- Let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting into, otherwise it won't hold its shape.
* I believe it is really important to taste as you go and make sure that the seasonings are what you want them to be. Add more salt, pepper, etc if needed!!
* You don't want to fully cook the pasta while boiling. As they will continue to cook in the oven.