Quick & Easy Gourmet: Gourmet Macaroni & Cheese
Published: February 1, 2010
|Nothing says “comfort food” like a crispy, breadcrumb- topped pan of homemade macaroni & cheese. The stuff in the box might be quicker, but the truth is homemade macaroni & cheese doesn’t take long to make either, and it tastes worlds better. I confess: When I need to shave some minutes off dinner prep time, I buy a jar of high-quality alfredo sauce to use as the base of my macaroni & cheese. If I’ve got more time, I make a roux (a thickening sauce) with flour, butter, milk, cheese and garlic.|
But what really makes the difference, homemade sauce or no, is how you make the recipe your own. Macaroni & cheese takes on all sorts of different flavors and textures exceptionally well. Add shredded chicken and a few frozen veggies like corn and peas to create a balanced and delicious one-bowl meal. Up the flavor (and the calorie count) by tossing in some bacon. Drizzle the whole thing with truffle oil to give it a decadent, rich flavor. Add fresh herbs like thyme, savory and marjoram. And some fresh ground black pepper adds spice.
But the heart and soul of the dish is – of course – the cheese! A great way to choose cheese for macaroni & cheese is by region. If I want a fancy French-flavored casserole, I use Brie and Camembert. For a Mediterranean taste, I crumble feta in with the pasta and top it with fresh goat cheese. For a classic Italian feast, I love the “four cheese” blends of shredded hard Italian cheeses from the supermarket. And a big handful of shredded mozzarella brings that gooey, luscious quality that all macaroni n’ cheese dishes should have.
Class it up however you like, but my basic homemade macaroni & cheese recipe (below) is easy enough for a family with a busy schedule of fun at the cabin – while tasting like something a gourmet chef created.
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side dish
What you Need:
- 12 ounces (dry) small elbow macaroni, boiled to al dente and drained
- 16 ounces alfredo sauce, from a jar or homemade
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
- ½ cup medium cheddar cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Put the alfredo sauce into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add ¼ cup of each type of cheese to the sauce and stir until the cheese has melted. Remove the sauce from the heat.
3. Coat the bottom of a 9x9-inch glass baking pan with the alfredo sauce and sprinkle a little bit of cheese over the sauce.
4. Scoop half of the cooked macaroni noodles into the pan. Pour half the remaining sauce over the noodles, add half the cheese, then stir very gently to coat the noodles.
5. Add the rest of the noodles, then pour on the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle the last of the cheese on top of the casserole.
6. Bake the macaroni & cheese for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately.
After a hard day of swimming, riding her PWC and lying in the sun, Liz Hamill Scott loves to refuel with homemade macaroni & cheese – made by her mom.