The Great American Macaroni & Cheese

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The Great American Macaroni & Cheese

By Shannon O'Donnell

Okay, HELLO.  This Mac & Cheese is just plain heavenly.  There are so many recipes for 'homemade macaroni & cheese' floating around out there, but this one has been my go-to version for over 15 years.  It's from Marcella Rosene's 'Pasta & Company' cookbook, and she describes it as follows...  "This is the classic:  precisely cooked pasta bathed in a creamy bechamel and encrusted in browned cheeses.  Mom should have made this kind of macaroni and cheese, but probably did not."

Agreed.  Not only are four cheeses featured in this version, but there are two secret ingredients:  Tabasco sauce (just enough to step up the flavor, but not enough to add heat) and chili powder, which gives the dish a rusty-brown crusty finish.  Marcella also advises you to use ribbed rigatoni over any 'smooth' pasta tubes such as penne...you need the ribbing so that all of that rich, gooey, cheesey goodness has something to grab on to...!

THE GREAT AMERICAN MACARONI & CHEESE

Ingredients:

* 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
* 1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
* 3 cups milk (whole or 2% for best results)
*  7 T unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup flour
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
* 2 teaspoons Tabasco
* 1/3 teaspoon white pepper
* 1 1/8 pounds fresh rigatoni (I substitute 1 pound dried)
* 3/4 teaspoon chill powder, to top
* 3/4 cup milk (whole or 2%)

 

Directions:

{Preheat oven to 375°}

1)  Combine grated cheddar & mozzarella and set aside
2)  In a small saucepan, heat milk until near boiling.  Turn off heat.
3)  In a large, heavy saucepan (big enough to add all the pasta into later), melt the butter.  When the foam recedes, add the flour and mix well.  Return to medium-low heat, and stirring occasionally, simmer 2-3 minutes to cook, but not brown, the flour.
4)  Gradually stir in the hot milk.  Raise heat to medium-high and continue cooking, stirring until mixture is smooth and thick, about five minutes.  Add Parmesan & Romano cheeses.  Whisk until smooth.  Add Tabasco and white pepper to blend.  This is your homemade bechamel!
5)  Cook rigatoni in boiling salted water, about 4 to 5 minutes.  It will not be 'done', but will finish cooking later in the process.  Drain pasta and fold into the bechamel.
6)  Layer half of the pasta mixture into a 9x13" baking dish.  Top with half of the cheddar/mozzarella mixture.  Repeat layers.  Top with the chili powder sprinkled evenly over the top.
7)  Drizzle the 3/4 cup milk evenly over the dish.
8)  Bake for approximately an hour.  Should it appear to be browning too fast, cover with foil.

Serve with a fall salad (recipe to follow)...you'll need something light to balance out the heavy quality of this comfort food!

Shannon O'Donnell: Rainy Day Cafe

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About Shannon

Shannon

When she's not forecasting, Shannon O'Donnell enjoys putting together tasty, season-appropriate meals and goodies for her friends and family.

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