One of the great joys of parenting, grandparenting, “aunting” and “uncling” is getting to do things again like dress up for Halloween, go see Santa, and play with things like Legos, modeling clay, coloring books, and finger paints. We’re just doing it for the kids! And when it comes to feeding children, macaroni and cheese is about as close to a universal food as one can get. Kids always seem to love it and even when they profess not to be hungry, their little appetites can usually be tempted by a few bitefuls of good old “mac and cheese,” I know a lot of grownups that can be tempted the same way.
The problem is that the geniuses (really) that figured out how to make that little box mix or pop the freezer version into the oven make us forget that as good as those products are, homemade macaroni and cheese is far superior (in taste and nutrition) and is the best kind of comfort food. If you haven’t made homemade macaroni and cheese in a while, it’s time to enjoy this wonderful dish with or without the kids in your life at the table.
Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6 to 8
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
2 cups milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Fontina Cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs, or leftover bread, crusts removed, made into crumbs
¼ teaspoon paprika
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cook the pasta according to pasta directions and drain well. After the pasta is drained, drizzle the olive oil over it and toss.
Meanwhile, Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. While whisking, slowly add the milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat. Add the cheeses to the sauce and stir until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the pasta to the pan and stir to coat the pasta well with the sauce. Pour into a lightly buttered 9 x 13 inch rectangular or oval baking dish.
In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, sit in the breadcrumbs and the paprika and stir with a fork to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs on top of the pasta. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the topping is nicely browned.