RECIPE: Not Ya Mama’s Mac ‘n Cheese

Mac ‘n Cheese is pure comfort food. Growing up, I remember it was mine and my friends go-to meal when we were up late and hungry. My kids love mac ‘n cheese, too. Seriously, if I’d allow it, they would eat it every day of their lives for every meal. In recent years, we have progressed from the ‘blue box’ version to the organic version. Yet, I haven’t really attempted the homemade version too often.

Over the weekend, we watched an episode of  The Pioneer Woman  online, and she was making a homemade version. I thought, “I should give that a try.” And today, I did! Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. Traditional is just not for me! So, I pushed the envelope a bit. (What’s new?) In this instance, I stretched my kids’ tastebuds a bit by adding in several ingredients they’ve not yet experienced in typical mac ‘n cheese, boxed or home made. The end result? They loved it, and requested seconds! YEA!

BE WARNED: this recipe makes a lot. Instead of using a 9 x 13 baking dish, I prepared two 8 x 8 baking dishes. One to eat, one to share! So, take one to a neighbor or invite friends over for dinner. Trust me, you’ll have plenty!

Not Ya Mama’s Mac ‘n Cheese

Topping:

  • 2 cups of Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 4 Tablespoons of Butter, melted
  • 1 cup of Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Smoked Paprika (*Yes, it’s necessary. It’s delicious! I found mine at Costco.)
  • 1 teaspoon of Onion Powder
  • 1 teaspoon of Dried Parsley

Melt butter and in a bowl stir together with panko or regular bread crumbs and cheddar cheese until combined well. Set aside.

Main Dish:

  • 4 cups Dried Macaroni (other shapes work fine, too)
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 1/4 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 2-1/2 cups Half and Half (or whole milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard
  • 3 cups of Cheddar Cheddar, grated
  • 1/4 cup of Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 of Blue Cheese, crumbled
  • 4 ounces of Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun  Seasonings (or Seasoning Salt), more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish (or two 8×8 pans) with butter.

2. Cook macaroni until al dente. Drain.

3. In a small bowl, beat an egg.

4. In a large pot, melt butter; then, sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for five minutes. Make sure to keep whisking, so it doesn’t burn.

5. Pour in milk, add mustard, and stir until smooth. Cook on medium heat until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

6. Temper the egg by taking a bit of the sauce pouring into the egg. (This will keep you from having scrambled eggs!)  Stir until combined.

7. Pour egg mixture into sauce, stirring until smooth.

8. Add in all the cheeses and stir to melt.

9. Add salt and pepper and other seasonings, to taste.

10. Pour macaroni into cheese mixture, making sure to combine well.

11. Pour this mixture into prepared 9 x13 baking dish (or two 8×8 baking dishes). Generously top with bread crumb topping.

12. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbly.

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