Easy Baked MAC

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It's hard to believe that the holidays are right around the corner. When the holidays approach, there's always a shift in the air, a different kind of breeze that rushes through cracked windows in my kitchen when I cook. I love this time of year, not just for the food, but for the feelings it provides me. I always think of how grateful I am for this platform, for my support system, and of course, for the food I provide for my family. I've been making homemade mac and cheese for quite some time now, and this easy baked version is tried and true, and one of my absolute favorite recipes to make. It's not one of those recipes that's just a holiday favorite, but it can certainly be used as an entrée for dinner, prepped for the freezer, or is a perfect meal to make for a family welcoming a new baby or new neighbors. I'm telling you this is the MAC that keeps on giving.

Macaroni and cheese, aka MAC, is widely popular for it being super cheesy, gooey, and stick-to-your-ribs tasting with the crispy cheese on top. There are so many different ways to make it: baked, one pot, added veggie, dairy free, gluten free, added meat, the list goes on. While I have a few other recipes that incorporate veggies (reshoots of these coming soon I promise), I most often choose the classic mac and cheese because it's, well, a classic! Nothing better than gooey, cheesy pasta coated with extra crispy cheese on top, baked to utter perfection. I am drooling thinking of it.

When I say this is an easy mac and cheese, it really is easy. There are a couple of key things to remember when making it, but you'll be a pro at making it sans recipe after just one time. The ingredients are pretty straightforward too, so there's no need for anything crazy here, except for one small secret ingredient: nutmeg.

Mac and Cheese Ingredients:

  • Pasta: Technically any pasta could be a mac and cheese, but I am super biased toward traditional elbow macaroni, shells, or a good corkscrew pasta such as fusilli. These types of short pasta catch the sauce well and hold onto flavor.
  • Cheese: choosing sharp cheese will amplify this dish and give it the creaminess you want.
  • Cream or milk: adding just a touch of milk or cream will help thicken the cheese sauce to pour over the pasta. Trust me, do not skip this part.
  • Stock: the stock, preferably either vegetable or chicken, is added to the milk as  part of making the cheese sauce. It also adds another flavor profile too.
  • Butter: two tablespoons of butter will help make the roux with the flour (to thicken the sauce as well).
  • Flour: added to the melting butter in a large saucepan will make the paste you need for the roux prior to adding in the milk and stock
  • Nutmeg: Here's where it gets fun! Nutmeg adds an additional flavor profile, but on a different level. It gives the entire recipe a warmth, a subtle spice, and really lifts the cheese flavor. TRUST ME.
  • Salt and pepper: I mean, of course you need a little of both here :). Whisk it into the cheese sauce before pouring over the pasta.

Easy Baked MAC Tips:

  • When boiling the pasta, cook it for a minute or two less than what the directions say. You'll be baking the pasta, so you don't want it to be overcooked.
  • Don't worry about fully straining the pasta, you can easily scoop the pasta from the pot and add to the cheese sauce to keep some of the starchy pasta water and help give the MAC even more delicious flavor.
  • Bake the pasta to melt the cheese, and then broil for juuuuust a minute or so to crisp up the top noodles and brown the cheese.
  • When making the roux and cheese sauce, let the sauce come to a rolling boil, stirring with a whisk. When the milk/stock mixture coats the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and add in the cheese to melt. Add more cheese as desired.

You are going to win Thanksgiving this year with this mac and cheese. Go nuts and make it for every holiday this year, and next, because it's just that good. As always, when you make this incredible MAC, be sure to share far and wide with friends and family, and remember to leave a comment below. It helps spread the love to other mac and cheese lovers, and let's me know you enjoyed it! Happy holidays, friends!!

Easy Baked MAC

Don't let the holidays get away without making this incredibly cheesy, easy to make mac and cheese. A fun secret ingredient makes this taste even better than any other mac and cheese you've ever had. Make this ahead time, pop in the oven the day of, and you've got plenty for leftovers the next day. PERFECTION!

Author:
Morgan

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dry pasta
  • 2 cups cheese
  • -white cheddar
  • -sharp cheddar
  • 2 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Breadcrumbs (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Nutmeg 
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Boil the pasta - for pasta other than regular durum, cook a minute under box recommendations. Strain pasta and rinse.
  3. Meanwhile, add the ¼ cup flour to a large deep pan. Throw in butter and begin to melt butter and stir until the mixture becomes a paste.
  4. Add in the milk and stock. Stir on a low flame until it begins to thicken and bubble. Layer in cheese handfuls at a time, stirring to combine and melt cheese, adding more cheese as desired. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  5. Add in the cooked pasta and stir to coat. Turn off the flame and keep stirring until the pasta thickens.
  6. Prep an oven safe baking dish, pour in the pasta and sprinkle breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes and then broil for two minutes or just until top noodles are golden and crisp, and the cheese is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

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