When I was growing up, my mother used to make macaroni and cheese most Friday nights during Lent. It was the most delicious dish as she made it with American cheese, a bit of paprika and Ritz crackers for the top. I remember the ease of her making it...some flour and butter, a few cups of milk and a package of sliced cheese which she tore up into pieces so they would melt quicker.
We were trying to figure out what we would have for dinner and I mentioned to Jeff that I was craving macaroni and cheese. I was telling him about how my mother would make it and decided I would take it on. I didn't want a recipe because most of what she did was basic. We decided we would add some ham to give it an extra boost along with smoked paprika. I knew I needed to start with a basic roux (flour and butter), so this is what I did.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Fill a large pot with water, generously salt and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add you favorite pasta. We used a fusilli pasta but feel free to use traditional elbow macaroni. Add 1-1/2 pounds of pasta. Cook according to directions, drain and butter slightly so they won't stick. Place in a 13 x 9 inch deep dish pan.
3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
Add 1/2 cup of flour
Mix well and allow the roux to become golden brown and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Using a whisk, slowly add three cups of milk, whisking constantly so the mixture won't clump. Once it is well blended, add an additional 2-1/2 cups of milk. (We used 1% milk, since that's what we drink.)
5. Stirring regularly, allow the mixture to reach a slight boil, about 5-7 minutes.
2 cups of shredded mild white cheddar
2 cups of shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
We added them 1/2 cup at a time and stirred until it was blended.
7. Add -
2 cups of ham, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
8. Take the mixture off the heat, add salt and white pepper to taste. Mix with the pasta in the dish.
9. Crush 1/2 a sleeve of Ritz crackers and sprinkle on top of the mixture.
10. Finish with a slight sprinkle of paprika.
11. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is slightly golden and bubbly.
Allow the macaroni and cheese to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8-10 people.
The macaroni and cheese was delicious. It was creamy and smooth with that hint of smokiness. For us, it was the comfort food we craved. That feeling when there is still a chill in the air and you want something that is tasty and easy...that one dish casserole. It brings you back to a time when you were younger, enjoying the same anticipation for a hearty meal.
Surprise your family with homemade macaroni and cheese, create that memory...that dish that everyone craves!