Thursday, June 20, 2013

Recipe: Baked Macaroni & Cheese

Growing up in a Puerto Rican household, the only Macaroni & Cheese I was familiar with was Kraft Mac & Cheese from the box that my mom reluctantly served us when she had little other option. Even then she added a bit of Adobo seasoning, garlic powder, basil and oregano leaves to the bland neon orange mix. She usually served it with a juicy chuleta Pork Chop.

As I got older and more familiar with the Southern, Soul, baked version, I was floored by the amazing difference in creaminess and richness. When I began cooking on my own, the recipe below was my favorite. The hint of mustard makes this a wonderful, sophisticated version that will amaze all who consume it. I think it came from an old Saveur Magazine:

Southern-Style Macaroni and Cheese Baked Macaroni and Cheese

MAKES:4 to 6 servings
PREP: 15 minutes
COOK: 40 minutes

1 (8-ounce) package dried elbow macaroni or favorite pasta (about 2 1/4 cups,uncooked)
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1 (8-ounce) package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
Toppings (optional):
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn heat to medium; gradually whisk in milk, and cook over medium heat, stirring or whisking constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in pasta, mustard, and next 4 ingredients, stirring just until cheese begins to melt.
3. Pour pasta mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano or more Cheddar. If desired, top with fresh breadcrumbs, and drizzle evenly with melted butter.
4. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

However, cut from the same cloth as my mother, I amended the recipe and made it my own, grating onions and garlic into it, adding a dash of Worcestershire and other herbs and spices. It's been years since I've made it though because it's a lot of work to make and also because of the carb and fat content.

Recently, I ran a contest and asked you all to tell me what you would like to see more of posted here and the general consensus was Italian and Latin recipes so I am sharing this one with everyone but I would like to amend it to show you how to make a healthier version.

Updated Baked Macaroni and Cheese Recipe - The healthier, Tastier version:

1 (8-ounce) package dried whole wheat pasta (about 2 1/4 cups, uncooked)
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup low fat or non fat Greek Yogurt
1 cup plain almond milk
1 tablespoon whole-grain organic Dijon mustard
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon Sriracha
1/4 Worcertershire
1/2 cup grated onion & garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil and oregano
1 (8-ounce) shredded reduced fat sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat up olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over low heat; add onion, garlic, basil and oregano in a teeny bit of oil. Once the onions seem soft and have been sweated down, add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. This is a roux, the basic thickener in soups and sauces.

Turn heat to medium; gradually whisk in milk & yogurt, and cook over medium heat, stirring or whisking constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add more oil or flour, if needed until you get the right thick consistency. Your arm will ache from stirring but you will get the satisfaction of knowing you just made a cheese sauce from scratch. Booyah! Stir in pasta, mustard, and rest of the ingredients, stirring just until cheese begins to melt.

3. Pour pasta mixture into a lightly greased (Use Canola or Olive Oil on a paper towel, not butter, to grease) 13- x 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano or more Cheddar.

4. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

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