Thursday, December 20, 2007

A little (or a lot of!) macaroni and cheese please...

There are many ways that one can make good ol' macaroni and cheese - we've made quite a few ourselves, be it via a stove-top method or baked in the oven. Tonight's dish for dinner, Macaroni and Three Cheeses, is made using the latter and the good news is you can get all of the prep work done ahead of time!

I knew we were going to be busy out and about running errands today, so I prepared the dish before we left this morning and stashed it away, fully assembled, in the refrigerator. When we got home, all I needed to do was get the oven hot and bake it while we were putting stuff away and dealing with the pups!

The three cheeses in this recipe are sharp white cheddar, Havarti and Muenster - you could also use others if you can't find these or just don't like them. Try using mozzarella, Monterey Jack or even fontina for any of the above. As you wait for the shells for this dish to cook (be sure to under-cook the pasta slightly - about 2 minutes before al dente), the white sauce is made - to boost up the flavor, dry mustard, along with a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg, are added when you add the flour to melted butter. Nutmeg may seem like an unusual addition to some, but it just seems to bring out all the flavors in a white sauce - don't forget to add that pinch! Once milk has been whisked in and the sauce thickens, hearty handfuls of the cheeses are gradually added off heat until it is very creamy. For added depth, a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce is also stirred in.

After the pasta and sauce are combined, they are poured into the baking dish and topped with a generous dose of panko breadcrumbs that were mixed with melted butter. The original recipe called for fresh breadcrumbs (which you could certainly do - you'll need about 4-6 slices worth), but we love the crunch that panko brings. At this point, you can either bake it right away, or you can cover it well and place it in the refrigerator for up to a day. If you do chill it, be sure to add about 15 more minutes or so to the total baking time. We loved the combination of all those cheeses - mixed together, they brought a rich (yet not coma inducing), sharp and buttery flavor. To get neat slices when you are serving, try to let it sit for about 10 minutes once it comes out of the oven. While it is not swimming in sauce like some recipes, it is still pretty moist and creamy, which was a nice textural contrast to the crunch of the golden panko on top.

Macaroni and Three Cheeses


  1. That looks good. I think the kids would love it. I'll have to try it in the New Year. How was the reaction from the people receiving the treats?

  2. That looks so good. And since I'm seriously sidetracked from my diet these last few days, I just wish I had a big plateful before I get back on the wagon!

  3. I love mac & cheese. That looks great. I was in the mood for mac & cheese a couple of days ago, and I bought some at Wegmans ($5 for one serving!). It was awful. Crunchy undercooked onions overwhelmed the whole dish. Maybe I'll make this version to erase that memory.

  4. Helene - Very positive, though we had one person say they thought the Spicy Chex Mix was too spicy!

    Kalyn - There is certainly a spot at the table if you were just a little closer.

    Tracy - Ugh, sorry it was a disappointment! But, at least you have a Wegmans... boy do I miss that store!