Updated: Jul 5, 2021
Good ol' Mac & Cheese... can you ever go wrong?
As a parent, I know my way around a box of Kraft or Annie's Mac & Cheese. I feel like I have made countless servings over the years as it is quick, easy and most importantly gets the job done. Most kids I know, love the stuff and really, what's not to love? Pasta, cheese, add some cartoons and that is perfection in the eyes of a 6 year-old. However, as often as I can, I will go all in on a fresh dish of homemade Mac & Cheese, because we grown-ups know the difference.
I like a broader cut of pasta as apposed to the mini elbows, such as a medium shell or orecchiette but any medium to small cut will do. I also prefer a very saucy Mac & Cheese so its heavy with creamy béchamel and lots of cheeses! Lastly, I like texture so to add a bit of soft crunch and were this recipe veers off the path of "traditional" is a topping of sweet and buttery corn bread crumbles. Delicious, delicious and whipped together in not time!
Admittedly, there will be more dishes by making a batch from scratch, but in truth, it's always a win with kids and the kids at heart, plus that extra mile will always be noticed.
Mac & Cheese with a Corn Bread Crust
1 lb. dried pasta such as elbow, medium shells, orecchiette, petit ziti or farfalle 1/2 cup butter (plus 4 tbsp, divided) 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 1/2 cups 2% or higher fat milk 1-pint heavy cream 1 tsp kosher salt ½ tsp granulated garlic ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional) or *sub with ½ tsp paprika 4 cups grated medium sharp cheddar cheese - divided 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese - divided ½ cup grated Parmesan 2 large corn muffins or a small sheet of prepared cornbread, crumbled (about 2 cups)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9x13 casserole pan or large souffle dishes with 2 tbsp of butter. Set aside.
Fill large stock pot ¾ full of water. Salt water heavily and bring to a boil. Cook pasta until slightly under done or al dente. Drain pasta, place back into the stock pot and set aside.
While pasta is cooking. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt ½ cup (1 stick) butter. Once butter is melted add flour and stir until combined into a paste. Season with salt, garlic and cayenne. Add heavy cream and continue to stir until blended. Add milk and continue to stir. To the thick milk mixture add 3 cups of cheddar, 1 cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup of Parmesan (reserve remainder cheese for topping). Stir until cheese has melted and sauce is thick and stringy. Pour cheese sauce onto the cooked pasta and toss together until pasta is well coated. Transfer mac & cheese to prepared casserole dish and top with remainder of reserved cheese. In a small bowl, melt 2 tbsp of butter and mix with corn bread crumbles and evenly distribute as the top layer of your mac & cheese, pressing in lightly.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes, remove cover and finish baking for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the top starts to brown and cheese sauce is bubbly. Remove from oven and serve right away!
~Serves six to eight.
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