Sometimes it seems silly that this blog has a category called “food” because I should probably be honest with myself and just rename it “pasta”. That’s where my “culinary interests” lay. But within my love of pasta lies a deep, dark, dirty secret… in my lifetime, I’ve consumed a lot of that orange powder mac and cheese. Like, a lot! It was pretty much a food group growing up in Michigan, it was my main sustenance through college, I’ve microwaved a cup of it in many an office break room… You get the picture.
In recent years it started to dawn on me that it was kind of gross. I mean, why was I worried about buying organic paper towels, but eating glow-in-the-dark, processed, “cheese” powder on a regular basis? Should the opportunity ever present itself, I’ll never be able to look Gwyneth Paltrow or Michelle Obama in the eye, that’s for sure. Then I got pregnant, craved nothing but cheese and carbs, and realized there was no way I was going to let that orange powdery stuff within a mile of my developing baby boy. The solution? A combination of a few different mac and cheese (real mac and cheese!) recipes that I’ve found online. It’s easy, it’s delicious, and it’s actually real food. Crazy, I know.
-Butter or oil for greasing the pan
-1 pound macaroni (if it’s just for me and my husband we use whole wheat pasta)
-1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
-3 bay leaves
-Pinch cayenne pepper
-4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
-¼ cup all-purpose flour
-1 pound smoked Gouda, grated
-12 oz fresh broccoli florets, we use a pre-cut bag (optional)
-1/4 cup minced onion (optional)
-1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1. Heat the oven to 375°F and grease a 9- by 13-inch pan. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the macaroni and broccoli (if desired) and cook until just beginning to turn tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Put the milk, bay leaves, cayenne, and some salt and pepper in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. As it warms up, put the 4 tablespoons butter in another large saucepan over medium heat. When it melts, add the onion and then the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns golden brown. Gradually whisk the warm milk mixture into the butter mixture and continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves, and stir in all but about 1 cup of the cheese. Toss the sauce with the macaroni, then transfer the mixture to the greased pan and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
3. If you want a breadcrumb topping, sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese and spray with a butter or olive oil spray to brown them as it bakes.
4. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.