Apr 28 2014
I have a couple different versions of mac n’ cheese on the site, and all of them are baked. But when you bake traditional macaroni and cheese, there’s a problem – at least in my eyes. All of that deliciously melted cheese bakes and gets much firmer. It no longer runs all over your plate. It will no longer be ooey gooey. And all the hard work you’ve put into making that bechamel sauce pretty much goes down the drain. It’s for these reasons that my family has never really liked macaroni and cheese – and why I was so determined to somehow get it back onto our table. Now, I’ve found the answer.
Forget about the oven altogether. Instead, toss the cooked macaroni in the sauce, and just top it with toasted breadcrumbs like you do with pasta al pangrattato (because you have to keep the breadcrumbs, they’re the best part.) But do not, whatever you do, toss it in the oven! At the last minute, pull it all together and you’ll finally have all that cheesiness dripping down your chin when it’s time to eat. I hesitate to say that this will be the only mac n’ cheese I’m making from now on (I’m hesitant to say that about any dish,) but it certainly is a good one to have in your wheelhouse.
1/2 package (about 4 cups) dried penne or other pasta $0.49
4 tablespoons butter, divided $0.24
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour $0.02
2 1/2 cups milk $0.70
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated, plus 1/2 cup $4.48
1 cup Fontina cheese, grated $1.56
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated $0.63
1 cup breadcrumbs $0.42
1 clove garlic, minced $0.01
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced $0.12
Total cost $8.69
Cost per serving $1.45
1.) Bring a very large pot of water to a boil. When it comes to a rapid boil, salt generously and add the dried pasta. When pasta is done, reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain until the bechamel sauce is ready.
2.) Meanwhile, make the bechamel sauce. In a saucepan set over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of butter. When melted, add two tablespoons of flour and whisk until it’s fully combined. Cook for about two minutes, whisking constantly. Then slowly add the milk, whisking as you do, until everything has fully combined. You need to do this slowly, otherwise you’ll have difficulties mixing it all together. When all the milk has been added, cook the mixture for another two or three minutes, until it has begun to thicken. Then turn off heat, and add all the cheese very slowly, making sure you fully incorporate it all after each addition. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
3.) When the bechamel sauce is finished, you can start making the al pangrattato to top the mac n’ cheese. Start by setting a skillet over medium heat and melting the remaining two tablespoons of butter. When melted, add breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until the breadcrumbs are nicely toasted brown and are very aromatic.
4.) Then just assemble. Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to thoroughly coat all noodles with the sauce. Serve onto individual plates, and top with al pangrattato. Divide remaining Parmesan cheese among the plates equally, and sprinkle on top.
5.) Serve and enjoy!