|Fusilli and cheese. © Ryan Schierling|
There is a time and place for fancy baked macaroni and cheese dishes, and we have been known to throw down some grown-up mac-n-cheeses when we're having an art opening on the ol' fridge. But there is also a time for simplicity, frugality, and a little bit of nostalgia. So we're giving you a grown-up kid's macaroni and cheese, simple in concept and execution, that Julie's been making for the last decade. Your inner (or actual) ten-year-old will dig it. If you're feeling particularly adult and prefer a fancier baked dish, we're also including our recipe for a smoky, slightly-spicy baked macaroni and cheese. Either way, a healthy glass of red wine is a necessity for these dishes. For the cheatin' version, you can totally get away with Two Buck Chuck. You know, as somewhat of a digestivo.
Julie's cheatin' spirals & cheese
1 16-ounce package rotini or other spiral pasta (giant fusilli work wonderfully)
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup whole milk
1 can Campbell's® cheddar cheese soup (the cheatin' part of the program)
8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Freshly-ground black pepper (to taste)
Boil pasta in salted water until just al dente. Drain and set aside.
In the same pan used for the pasta, melt butter and stir in 1/4 cup of the milk. Add cheddar cheese soup and the remainder of the milk, stirring over medium heat. Add grated sharp cheddar cheese, cayenne pepper and continue stirring. If sauce is too thick, a bit more milk can be added.
Stir the noodles back into the pan to coat thoroughly with cheese sauce and re-heat. Serve at once with freshly-ground black pepper.
Smoky macaroni & cheese
8 ounces large elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
1 small white onion, diced fine
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 ounces smoked cheddar cheese (we use Tillamook®), grated
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 ounce good stinky blue cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup panko
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large stockpot of boiling, salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente. Drain, then put back into the stockpot with the lid on. Set aside until the sauce is finished.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and continue stirring for another three minutes, until you have a nice blonde roux. Stir in the milk, onion and cayenne pepper until well-mixed. Simmer for ten minutes. Crack the egg into a small bowl and spoon in 1/2 cup of the roux-milk mixture. Stir well, then pour back into the saucepan to incorporate. Add the smoked cheddar, blue cheese, and 2 ounces of the sharp cheddar, continuing to stir well. Fold the macaroni into the mixture, salt to taste, and pour it all into a lightly-greased two-quart casserole. Melt the butter in a skillet and toss in the panko, coating liberally. Sprinkle the remaining 2 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese and the panko on top, then bake for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving.