Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mom's Macaroni and Cheese

As Thanksgiving draws near, I always get a little homesick. We stay in Boston for the holiday, and while I love hosting and cooking and decorating, I miss spending the day with family.  To help with the homesickness, I cook. I turn to my mom's recipes written in a notebook that she started for me when I left for college. She cooks based on memory and instinct so this is the only place where a lot of her recipes are written down. Opening the cover and seeing her handwriting brings a smile to my face. As I work my way through the steps, it's like she's in the kitchen with me. Once I begin cooking, familiar aromas fill my kitchen, and I feel like I've been transported back to hers. 
One of my favorites is her macaroni and cheese. Elbow noodles are tossed with a rich cheese sauce and topped with more grated cheese before going into the oven. It's simple and classic, the perfect comfort food. You could jazz it up in a million ways, but I prefer to make it just like this!
2 cups elbow macaroni noodles
4 Tb butter
4 Tb flour
1 1/4 cup milk (it helps if it's warmed slightly)
1 1/4 cups + 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. 

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water and then add the noodles. Cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add in the flour, stirring to combine. Cook, stirring continually, for ~2 minutes to cook the flour.

Gradually pour in the milk, stirring to remove lumps and to prevent scorching. Once all of the milk is added, continue stirring until the sauce begins to thicken. 

At that point, begin adding in ~1 1/4 cups of cheese a small handful at a time, stirring to incorporate. The cheese should melt into the liquid to make your cheese sauce.  If your sauce gets a bit too thick, just add in a little more milk. Salt to  taste. 

Drain the macaroni once it's done, and toss with the cheese sauce. Pour the macaroni into a greased 9"x13" or 8"x8" casserole dish. Top with the remaining grated cheese.

Bake until the cheese is melted and the macaroni is bubbly (~20 min for an 8"x8" or ~12 min for the 9"x13").

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