I can’t believe I don’t have a mac and cheese recipe on the site. My go-to recipe is Martha Stewart’s “Macaroni and Cheese 101” from her 1999 magazine issue. I should have either the magazine or the recipe cut out somewhere. I can’t do better than her combination of white cheddar and nutty Gruyere, but today I’m doing a yellow cheddar and adding some ricotta for the second cheese just for a change. It should be a milder cheese flavor, but still have a nice creamy texture.
I see a lot of mac and cheese recipes that use the no-boil method, but I don’t like the fuss of the long cooking under foil and then the second cooking without it. Plus, some of the photos of those dishes show that the whole thing has bubbled up over the sides, because of all the extra liquid needed to cook the macaroni. I’m just going to stick with a cheese sauce made from a traditional white sauce, and boil the macaroni first. The one extra step today is pulsing the ricotta in a food processor, so it’s creamy and not gritty. I also do that when I want to add it to an Italian tomato sauce.
I’m halving my traditional recipe that uses a whole pound of macaroni, because there are just two of us, and while big dishes are lovely to look at, they are hard to consume. We’ll eat it again tomorrow or the next day, but that’s enough.
Cheddar-Ricotta Mac and Cheese
Preheat oven to 375°; butter a 2 1/2 quart baking dish, one with plenty of room to hold any bubbling sauce. You can see that mine came right up to the top.
8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
1 1/2 cups ricotta, whole or part skim, pulsed in food processor until creamy
8 oz (about 1 1/2 cups) cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups white sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups milk
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2-3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- Prepare the macaroni and the cheeses; set aside.
- Make white sauce: melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat until bubbling. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg until the flour is completely incorporated with no lumps. Stir in milk, stirring or whisking often until sauce is thickened.
- Stir cheeses into white sauce, stirring until melted.
- Pour cheese sauce over cooked macaroni in buttered dish. Stir to cover all the macaroni.
- Make crumb topping: combine all three ingredients in a large bowl, stirring/tossing quickly with a fork, to coat all with the butter. Crumble over the casserole.
- Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes until the topping is browned.
Macaroni and cheese is a great meal by itself, but we had bacon on the side and a frozen vegetable mix.