Monday, February 21, 2011

Baked Mac & Cheese

Baked Mac & Cheese 1

It was almost 60 degrees here on Friday! 60! The college kids were in their shorts and there wasn't a jacket, or scarf of mittens to been found.

I actually rolled down my window in the car a bit for some fresh air! It was such a delightful treat, then came Saturday, and with it a burst of cold, cold air. Hello again hat, here I come to get ya mittens. *groan*. I should have known better then to think that the nice weather was here to stay. We're getting more snow today. Oh well, it was nice for the one day it lasted.

I'm used to cold weather having lived in New England my whole life. My birthday is actually on the first day of Spring most years, so I'm always ready to bid winter adieu after 3 month or so of the white stuff, just like everybody else around here.

What I will miss are all those hearty winter meals. The delicious soups, the bone warming casseroles, the homemade bread, the warm muffins eaten right outta the oven. I love it when the heat from my stove warms up the whole kitchen, or the when the smell of apple crisp, or cookies, or a stew fills the house. Those are things I will miss about winter.

Baked Mac & Cheese

I was on the search for a mac & cheese recipe. Not an easy thing to narrow down in the world of food bloggers. It seems like everyone has their own twist on this classic recipe. My head was actually spinning after I narrowed it down to about 6 recipes I thought would work. I ended up choosing this one from Lottie & Doof. I check this site out all the time. It's beautiful and is filled with scrumptious food and gorgeous images.

This mac & cheese recipe didn't let me down. It was cheesy without been "too cheesy" if you know what I mean. I love the crunchy topping. To me it's just not mac & cheese without that crunch.

This is now my "go to" mac & cheese recipe. If you make it, I bet it will be yours too.

Mac + Cheese (Lottie + Doof Style)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 slices bacon, diced
1 cup of finely chopped yellow onion
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or less if you would like this with less spice)
2 small garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
3 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 ounces Mascarpone or cream cheese
3/4 cup panko (Japanese Breadcrumbs)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound Penne (or pasta of your choice)

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove all but about 3 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Add onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and garlic, stir for 1 minute. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, allow to melt, and then add the flour and stir for a minute. Gradually whisk in 3 cups of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 1/4 cups of cheddar and all of the Parmesan cheese and marscapone. Return bacon to sauce and season with salt and pepper.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add panko and stir until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in parsley.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly butter a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish or similarly sized gratin dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water until very al dente. Drain well. Toss pasta and cheese sauce and season again with salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake until hot and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Baked Mac & Cheese 2
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