We're currently trying to sell our house. Nothing exciting there, but it means my ability to mess up the kitchen is severely limited. Couple that with the fact that my family still needs to eat dinner every night and you'll see I've got myself quite the conundrum. I need solutions for delicious dinners that don't make a big mess and minimize the amount of dirty dishes they generate. Fortunately, I've been thinking up recipes for you all for long enough that this has become somewhat of my specialty: take a complex recipe, then strip it down to its simplest steps without compromising on taste.
This week my kids were bugging me for some homemade baked mac 'n cheese. Take a look around the web and you'll see that most baked mac 'n cheese recipes have two steps I was hoping to cut out.
1) The prerequisite to boil the pasta ahead of making the dish
2) The time-consuming & laborious creation of a milk and flour roux to pour over top of the pasta once it is set in the baking dish
The recipe I came up with purposely skips both of these steps. Everything gets dumped right into the dish as is. The beauty is in the simplicity. The finished dish is warm, comforting, and gooey with just the perfect amount of crunch from the panko bread crumbs. The cheesy, buttery flavour is going to make this one of your family's favourites.
I'd like to tell you that I spent hours in the kitchen experimenting, tinkering, and perfecting this recipe before I got it right, but my three taste testers demand perfection on the first try. Dinner's served. Hope you enjoy it!
1/2 cup butter
900 grams scoobi do or elbow macaroni
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 liter light cream (5%)
3 cups skim milk
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400°. Grease a 9x13" baking dish.
Take approximately three-quarters of the butter and dice it. In a large bowl combine the dry pasta, diced butter, 3 cups of the cheese and stir to roughly combine. Now stir in your dry ingredients (flour, ground mustard, salt and pepper). Yes I know the pasta isn't cooked and this is weird. Just stay with me here...
Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish and even out with a spatula. Mix together the cream and milk and carefully pour over the pasta to submerge. You might have to pat it down here or there to ensure the pasta is covered with liquid. Do not stir, and cover tightly with foil. Bake until pasta is tender, about 45 minutes.
Now melt the remaining butter in the microwave for 20 seconds or in a skillet over low heat. Add panko bread crumbs and toss to combine. Season liberally to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove the pasta from the oven and remove the foil. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of cheese, then panko flakes. Bake until bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 8-10 servings
For another delicious baked pasta dish, try my family's favourite: Baked Ziti