This is an ATK (America’s Test Kitchen) recipe that has become my go-to mac and cheese. You make a classic cheese sauce, starting with the roux (equal parts fat and flour) but the small additions here of minced garlic, cayenne and dry mustard give it a fantastic flavor. The sauce to noodle ratio is fab, especially if you let this rest about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven.
Disclaimer, this is not health food. You’d be hard pressed to find any mac and cheese that IS. However, on the Bobby Flay Throwdown against Delilah’s (of Reading Terminal Market), she confessed that her mac and cheese was 2,000 calories PER SERVING. Wowsa. Ours is like the PG-rated version of that. My philosophy on bad-for-you food is that if you’re going to make it, make it real. Just eat a smallish portion and don’t make it every week!
This recipe has been halved so to make a 9×12 just double everything. As written it would probably serve about 6 people as a side dish.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp. salt
8 oz. elbow macaroni (half of a box)
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, dissolved in 1/2 teaspoon water
pinch cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole milk
¾ c. plus 2 tbsp. chicken broth
2 c. shredded Colby cheese
1 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1. Make sure the oven rack is in the middle and preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter and mix with the breadcrumbs.
3. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in 2 tsp. salt and add the macaroni. Cook until almost tender, but still firm to the bite (about 7 minutes).
4. Drain the macaroni, leave in the colander, and set aside.
5. Dry the pot, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and melt on medium heat. Stir in the garlic, mustard mixture, and cayenne pepper. Cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Do NOT let the garlic burn (or turn brown).
(this is the ground mustard and water mixture)
(and there is the garlic)
6. Stir in the flour and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute. Stir in the milk and broth slowly and simmer, whisking often, until the mixture is slightly thickened. This should take about 6 minutes.
(You want to whisk this until it is smooth and bubbly. Let it cook a bit before adding the liquids, as the flour will actually toast, improving the flavor).
(Here is the thickened mixture. The liquids were added slowly, with constant whisking. Don’t let the mixture “catch” or burn to the bottom of the pot. To get it to simmer, it first needs to come to boil. So when the liquids are all in, turn the heat to high. Once it’s bubbling, reduce that heat but keep the little bubbles. The mixture should thicken quickly).
7. Take the pot off the heat and slowly whisk in the cheeses until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the macaroni until well mixed. Be sure to break up any clumps.
8. Pour into an 8×8 baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the macaroni and cheese.
9. Bake until golden brown and bubbling around the edges, about 15 minutes.
10. Cool about 10 minutes before serving.
Letting it sit will make it less goopy, as you can see above. This was the little bit left over from the blue kitchen. It congeals nicely! Congeals is a super gross word but I believe used correctly in this sense.