5 for Friday: Macaroni and Cheese

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It’s the first Friday of Lent, and, aside from tuna and fish & chips, seafood is not on the menu for me. I suspect I’m not alone in this, and even if I am, the world is full of other meat-free yumminess.

For example, there’s macaroni and cheese. Oh, yes, indeedy, there is. It was one of the mainstays in my house, so I’m starting this list of five outstanding M&C creations with my late mother’s recipe (as remembered by my older brother, more or less), because it’s also her birthday up in Heaven:

* Alice’s Macaroni & Cheese Casserole: Boil a pound of macaroni (or shells, whatever floats your boat) in salted water, leaving it slightly al dente (as my brother’s Italian godfather used to say, al dente pasta is like a good woman — firm, but yielding). Drain and layer in a casserole dish with medium-thickness slices of sharp cheddar (what my mother called “store cheese”) — I’d say make the macaroni layers an inch or an inch-and-a-half deep — and then cover the top with more cheese slices.

Pour in milk to just shy of a third of the way up the side of the dish; sprinkle the top with paprika and bake in a 350-degree oven until the top is browned and crusty and everything is thoroughly bubbly (maybe 30-40 mins., depending on the oven and the depth of the casserole dish). Let sit for a few minutes before digging in.

For variation, you can layer in tomato sauce, diced ham, cooked ground beef or whatever else strikes your fancy. This is a very forgiving dish.

* Cousin Pat’s Macaroni & Cheese: From a first cousin on my mother’s side, in his own words:

I cook a bunch of pasta (I like rigatoni but anything works). Melt 1/4 of stick of butter in a baking dish, stir in a can of evaporated milk and 3-4 TB mayo. Add warm pasta and cheese. (I use whatever I have on hand. I like about 5-6 0z. Velveeta sharp cheddar cubed; 4-5 oz. Velveeta caso blanco cubed; 5-6 oz. shredded cheddar; 4-5 oz, Kirkland Mexican blend; 4-5 oz. mozzarella).  Stir it all up; top with Parmesan and bread crumbs, if you got them. Bake covered at 250 degrees, an hour or so. None of this is carved in stone; the one thing to remember is if you don’t think you’ve added enough cheese, you haven’t.

P.S.: Kate, I forgot, add 3-4 beaten eggs.

* Jamie Oliver’s “A Killer Mac ‘n’ Cheese: The British TV chef takes on an American classic, adding tomatoes and a crunchy topping. As he says, “My proper American-style mac and cheese is beautifully gooey and full-on, in-yer-face cheesy!” And he says it serves 8-10!

* “Baked Macaroni and Cheese,” from Food Network’s Alton Brown, which sounds a lot like my mom’s, but with the addition of onion, powdered mustard and a panko-bread-crumb topping

* And lastly, from TV chef Gordon Ramsay’s (“MasterChef,” “MasterChefJunior”) BBCAmerica TV show, “The F Word,” a M&C recipe challenge:

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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