Comfort Food is one of my biggest weaknesses (and equally strongest passion). Chicken and dumplings, Shepherd’s pie and (of course) macaroni and cheese. If the food takes me down memory lane and back to my youth, I’m a fan.
I am constantly updating this recipe. Every time I make this dish, it turns out a little different each time. I throw in whatever ingredients I find laying about my kitchen (and surrounding areas). It makes life a little more interesting maybe, but doesn’t make for a solid recipe. Keep that in mind as you follow this thing. I call this the “Mac and Cheese and the Kitchen Sink” recipe for that reason.
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (penne is mighty tasty too)
extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large egg
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup monterey jack, shredded
8 ounces processed cheese food
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Italian seasoning, to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup panko breadcrumbs or crushed croutons
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta to al dente. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and extra-virgin olive oil to keep from sticking.
Melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes (the butter should be frothy and free of lumps). Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer on low for ten minutes (until yellow in color) and remove bay leaf.
Temper in the egg by taking some of your butter sauce mixture and adding it to the beaten egg first to regulate the temperature (dumping the egg straight into the sauce results in what is essentially scrambled eggs). Stir in all of your cheese, reserving a bit to sprinkle over the top.
Fold the noodles into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Melt the remaining butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the noodle mixture with the bread crumbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.