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Baked macaroni and cheese

I have this fond memory of the cheesy, creamy goodness of the baked macaroni and cheese from the Netscape cafeteria. That memory cropped up recently, along with the thought, “Hm, it’s been a while since I’ve made or eaten mac-n-cheese.”

This recipe is influenced, of course, by others: The one from The Joy of Cooking (1997 edition), Sarah Gim’s liveblog “Macaroni & Cheese from Scratch,” Married …with dinner’s “Smackdown and cheese” (Hi Anita!), and What we’re eating’s “Orgasmic Mac’n’Cheese.” Broccoli or leafy veggies complement this dish quite well.

The crusty topping made me say, “Yes, precious,” when I rescued a small piece that fell out of the serving spoon. 🙂 I usually dislike breaded casserole toppings, but the panko made it a winner.

The sauce here ended up a bit thick-custardy, so I’ll punt on the egg next time. I might also try some herbed soft cheese like chèvre suggested in the articles, or Boursin. Perhaps add some chili sauce. Options…!

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped between finely diced and roughly minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced; or 1 to 2 teaspoons garlic infused oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons mustard sauce
  • 1 egg, preferably at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh) thyme
  • freshly grated pepper
  • 8 ounces tubular pasta, such as rigatoni, macaroni or penne
  • 9 ounces shredded cheese, e.g., 3 ounces aged Gruyère, 3 ounces sharp English Coastal cheddar, 3 ounces Fiscalini’s San Joaquin Gold
  • 2 ounces shredded hard, flavorful cheese, such as Parmesan Reggiano or Fiscalini’s San Joaquin Gold
  • 1/2 panko breadcrumbs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Start heating water for the pasta in a large pot. Grease a ceramic or glass casserole with olive oil or butter. The casserole can be about 9 or 10 inches square, but at least 2 inches deep.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the onions and bay leaf over medium high heat until the onions become translucent.
  3. Stir in the garlic or garlic oil. Sprinkle in the flour, paprika and coriander, and stir for about 2 minutes.
  4. Slowly whisk in the milk, ensuring that no lumps of flour remain. Turn the heat to low. Whisk in the mustard.
  5. Beat the egg in jug or bowl, and gently temper it with 3 or so spoonfuls (one at a time) of the hot sauce. Whisk the egg into the sauce.
  6. Start cooking the pasta. You’ll want to undercook it by about 3 minutes, as it will finish cooking in the oven.
  7. Stir the thyme into the sauce. Slowly stir in the 9 ounces of shredded cheese (I did so in three batches).
  8. Drain the pasta when appropriately undercooked, and place it in the casserole. Pour in the sauce, stirring to coat the pasta. It will seem quite liquidy —don’t worry, the sauce will thicken and the pasta will absorb some of it as well.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the topping by mixing the 2 ounces of hard cheese with the panko crumbs.
  10. Remove the casserole from the oven, and spread the topping evenly over the pasta.
  11. Bake until the topping has become golden. If after about 20 minutes the panko still appears pale, put the casserole under the broiler for a minute or two. Serve hot.

3 comments

  1. Anita wrote:

    Hi Sarah!! I didn’t know you blogged 😀

    Sunday, 21 January 2007 at 10:06 pm | Permalink
  2. Lisa wrote:

    THIS SOUNDS DELICIOUS!!! I’m going to make it tonight!!

    Friday, 8 February 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink
  3. sairuh wrote:

    Thanks, Lisa! I’ve done another version which is not only creamier, but has fewer steps, in case you’re curious.

    Friday, 8 February 2008 at 11:43 am | Permalink

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