This has to be one of my favorite recipes. It’s easy to make, pretty-much fool-proof, and the leftovers freeze well. I’ve done nothing to make this recipe healthy (unless you count using 1% milk – but that’s what I have on hand, and it even turns out well with skim milk), so it made for a great pre-race treat (I’m running a half-marathon in the morning). As the picture shows, this makes a 9×13 baking dish full. Since I can freeze the leftovers, I rarely make a smaller batch.
To start, cook according to package directions:
- 1 pound macaroni, or other firm pasta (I used brown-rice penne pasta; I guess using a whole-grain pasta is also a healthy-touch, but this is the kind I prefer).
Cook until it is tender, then drain, rinse well in cold water, and set aside to drain.
In a large dutch-oven, melt over medium heat:
- 5 Tbsp. butter
When butter has melted, stir or whisk in:
- 6 Tbsp. flour (I prefer unbleached, all-purpose flour)
- 2 tsp. dry mustard (I like Colemans)
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne (0ptional)
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Gradually whisk or stir on:
- 5 c. milk (anything from skim to whole milk will work)
Continue to cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly being careful that it does not burn), until this mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer another 10 minutes or so until the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat, and stir in:
- 8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 8 oz. grated monterey jack cheese
It saves a little time to buy grated cheese, but I prefer to grate my own. If you look at the list of ingredients in store-bought shredded cheese, it includes corn starch and other things to prevent it from sticking together.
Stir the cooked pasta into the cheese mixture, and cook over low heat until heated through. If desired, pour into a greased 13×9-inch pan and place in an oven pre-heated to 425-degrees until it is slightly browned and crispy on top. You can also place it under a pre-heated broiler, but I find it hard to keep it from burning when I do this.