Macaroni and cheese is one of those things that most everyone loves. One of my grandmothers used to make a baked version that was so different than any other I’ve had, before or since, and was a staple at every big family meal that was one of everyone’s favorite. Even though I have her recipe, no one has ever been able to get it to come out the way she made it. It didn’t have an actual cheese sauce, but had big chunks of cheese tossed with butter, milk and saltine crackers that somehow still stayed mostly crispy in all of that. Like I said, very different. While this isn’t exactly close, in the end, the flavor and texture is closer that I’ve ever gotten and this recipe has become a whole family favorite, not just with the kids.
16oz – Elbow Macaroni
4 – Cups Half & Half or Milk
1 – Stick Butter
2 – T. Onion, Super Finely Chopped (mini-food processor works best)
5-6 – Oz New York Sharp Cheddar
5-6 – Oz Longhorn Colby
8 – Oz Smoked Cheddar
¾ – Tsp. Smoked Paprika
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook as it will soften even more during baking. Shred cheeses if necessary. Melt butter and saute’ onion until just soft. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients (do not cook). Pour into 9 x 13 greased baking dish and bake @ 375º for approximately 60 minutes. This is done when liquid is absorbed and is set. When just done, top with bread crumbs and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until nicely browned.
1 ½ – C. Panko Bread Crumbs
2 ½ – T. Butter
½ – T. Garlic Salt
After putting macaroni in oven, lightly toast bread crumbs in butter and garlic. You only want to cook until just lightly browned and butter and garlic have been evenly mixed. Set aside, but stir occasionally as they will continue to brown where they touch the pan.
Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Time: Apx. 1 ½ Hours
I looked around for a recipe that sounded good, but nothing in particular really grabbed me, so I took concepts from several and came up with my own. This is one of those recipes that is pretty flexible. If the cheeses aren’t what inspire you, absolutely substitute what does. The bread crumbs are probably one of my favorite parts of this because it does give that little bit of crunch that was so awesome about my grandma’s version and is easy enough to customize by just adding more or less, depending on how much you like them.
This makes a very full pan, so if that is more than you need, you may need to cut this recipe in half. I usually make this when we have everyone here, which is something like 14 people and I don’t often have much if anything left over. If I make it for just the 5 of us, then there is always lots, but since this is one of my kids’ favorite things, we usually eat leftovers for a few days.