Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

According to the Wikipedia page for the month of March, this is National Nutrition month. March 1st also happens to be National Pancake Day. In complete abandonment of both of these festivals, I made some Creamy Macaroni and Cheese (although I was tempted to ditch my culinary plans and drive over to IHop for some free pancakes).

Instead, I went to the gym and immediately came home to negate it with this dish. As a side note, I broke another sweat (perhaps more than I did on the elliptical machine while engrossed in an arbitrary article from The New Yorker) as I was shredding the cheese for this dish. Prepare yourself. Shredding 15 ounces of cheese is a chore – an arm-tiring, back-cramping chore. If you know of a machine that will shred cheese for you, please tell me. Or, just do me a favor and buy the pre-shredded variety in the store. It is worth the extra two-bucks. I may not be able to use my right arm tomorrow . . .

So, Happy National Nutrition Month! And let’s plan on celebrating pancake day later on in March, ok? And I will leave you with this other fun fact from the Wikipedia page: “March starts on the same day of the week as November every year and February in common years only. March ends on the same day of the week as June every year.” That is a Jeopardy clue waiting to happen.

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted From Southern Living All-Time Favorites, published in 2009 -- I could not find the link for this cookbook and all the Southern Living cookbooks on Amazon have a different cover. This cover has a slice of raspberry cheesecake and is a great cookbook so if you find it, snag one!

8 ounces elbow macaroni
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup milk
½ (10-ounce) block extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (or any combination of cheeses -- I threw in some Gouda as well)
1 (10-ounce) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded and divided

Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in flour until smooth; cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in salt and next three ingredients. Gradually whisk in half-and-half and milk; cook, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until thickened.
Stir in extra-sharp cheese and half of the sharp cheese until smooth. Remove from heat.
Combine pasta and cheese mixture, and pour into a lightly greased(8-inch square) baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. (I mixed in some leftover Gouda I had -- just to increase my shredding time -- so I think this recipe is fairly adaptable.)
Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Bake 15 more for a crusty top.

Makes 6 servings.

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