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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Classic Mac and Cheese

Sometimes nothing else will do.   It just won't.  Pasta and cheese, lots and lots of cheese.  It's iconic.  It's comforting.  It's just damn good.  I had already made my Sloppy Joe's and I was looking for a side dish.  I happen to be a spudaholic, so making some crispy potatoes is usually my go to side.  I could seriously eat potatoes every day, in every way.  But as I perused my fridge and pantry, I saw I had all the makings of what could end up being a pretty killer mac and cheese so I went for it.

Starting out with a third of a cup of unsalted butter and a third of a cup of flour, cook together for a few minutes on medium high heat. It doesn't have to darken, you just want to cook out the raw flour flavor. 

Turn the heat down to medium and add 2 cups of milk, slowly, stirring the whole time and continue to stir and cook until the mixture starts to thicken.  Add salt and pepper to taste and then for that extra zip, I add what amounts to about a half teaspoon of nutmeg.  I grate it fresh so I'm not exactly sure how much it is, I just grate it until it looks like enough.   When the mixture gets to the point where it can coat the back of a spoon it's time to turn off the heat.

Now it's time for cheese, cheese, glorious cheese!  I had extra sharp cheddar and provolone on hand and this was a winning combination!  Both cheese are sharp and full of flavor.  They rocked the mac.  I used 8 oz. of each for 1 pound of pasta.  You can use elbows if you want but seriously, why would you when you could use cavatappi?  It's heartier, bigger, holds the sauce better, bakes better, is just better all around.  Anyway, grate the cheese and add to the warm sauce mixture.

Gently stir the cheese in until it's completely melted.

Then, place your cooked to just slightly under al dente pasta in a buttered baking dish and pour all that cheesy goodness over the top.  Stir to combine completely.  And then it's time for the last but not least punch of flavor.... sour cream!
This happens to be one of my sour creams of choice, it's local and fantastic.  Rich, creamy, thick, with that sour cream tang I do so love.  SMITH'S products are available throughout Ohio.  If you are in the area, find it and use it!  And if I had any of my SMITH'S Chili Con Queso dip left, I would have used that.  Oh yes, that would be killer in the mac and cheese! 

Stir in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sour cream into the mac and cheese.

To finish it off, sprinkle the top with panko bread crumbs and dot with butter (that means take small pieces of butter and scatter them all over the top of the mac and cheese).  

Bake at 350 degrees, covered for 30 minutes and then uncover and bake for another 15 minutes.  And when you take this bubbly beauty out of the oven, you'll be in heaven!
Buon Cibo mia Amici.