Around Thanksgiving, I kept seeing articles for Thanksgiving meals that included a side dish of macaroni and cheese. As someone who does not think that cheese and poultry belong together in the same meal, that sounded awful. But it did get me thinking about mac-n-cheese. So here are some recipes that I’ve accumulated over the years.
I wanted a quick version to make in response to my son’s request “Hey Mommyo, do you feel like making me lunch?” I never liked the box version with powdered cheese and didn’t want to bother having to thicken the sauce with flour, so I settled on American Cheese which is already made with emulsifier to keep it from crumbling. I didn’t have a recipe so the amounts are approximate. The aim is to get a sauce that is thick enough to coat the macaroni without becoming too thick.
3-4 ounces elbow macaroni
1 tablespoons butter
¼-½ cup milk
6-8 slices American Cheese, broken into strips
1. Par-cook the macaroni (5-6 minutes) in a medium saucepan. Drain and return the macaroni to the pot.
2. Add butter and stir to melt over low heat. Stir in ¼ cup of the milk and warm it for a minute or two. Add the cheese, a few strips at a time, stirring until melted. Add more milk, as needed, if the sauce becomes too thick.
My son liked the recipe but I found it a bit gummy. So I googled “emulsifier for macaroni and cheese” and among the suggestions was cream cheese. So I tried it – and it resulted in a wonderfully creamy version of mac-n-cheese. It is a bit soupier ― although it does thicken as it cools ― so it’s good served over green veggies such as broccoli or brussels sprouts.
4 ounces elbow macaroni
1 cup milk
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks
6 ounces (1½ cups) shredded Cheddar (sharp yellow or white)
1½ tablespoons butter
1. Par-cook the macaroni (5-6 minutes) and drain.
2. Bring milk to simmer (in a pot large enough to hold the pasta). Reduce heat to low; add the cream cheese and whisk until completely blended. Add Cheddar & butter, whisking until cheese is completely melted.
3. Add cooked pasta to the cheese and stir to coat. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the sauce has thickened and is coating the pasta.
This next version of mac-n-cheese is the family favorite. I used to bring it every year to a friend’s for the Yom Kippur break-the-fast. The custom started when I realized that there was no kid-friendly food being served; but, of course, the adults liked it as well so I had to start doubling the recipe to make sure there was enough for the kids. Aileen frequently made it for the Shomrei kiddush (and I thought she had posted it in a previous recipe column but couldn’t find it) and she made in for the inauguaral MESH to-go meal (see MESH – We’re Back, Oct 6, 2021).
8 ounces elbow macaroni
1½ tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
14 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese (3½ cups)
1½ cups milk
1 tablespoon brown mustard
1½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
(Optional: 2-3 drops hot pepper sauce)
PREHEAT oven to 350º.
GREASE a 6×9 inch rectangular baking dish.
1. Par-cook macaroni (5 minutes) and drain. Mix warn macaroni with butter and egg. Stir in 3 cups cheese. Spread in greased baking dish.
2. Mix together milk, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, & hot pepper sauce (if using). Pour over macaroni.
3. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup cheese over the macaroni. Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly.
This is another version that I don’t make as often because I don’t tend to keep cottage cheese on hand. Adding the tomatoes is optional, but I really like the combination of soft sweet tomatoes and cheese.
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 cups cottage cheese (16 ounces)
1½ cup sour cream (16 ounces)
2 eggs, beaten
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Optional – 1 tomato, cut in 8 wedges
PREHEAT oven to 350º.
GREASE a 3-quart baking dish.
1. Par-cook macaroni.
2. Combine cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, pepper, onion powder, & cheese. Mix in macaroni. Spoon into greased baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes.
3. Arrange tomato wedges, if using, in circle on top. Bake 15 minutes more, until casserole is bubbly and tomatoes are tender.
This is a tangier version of macaroni and cheese. I made it for the first time after visiting my daughter, Eva, in Newton Iowa. I mention that because Newton is the home of Maytag Farms which makes the best blue cheese. Maytag blue cheese is rather expensive to buy in stores, so we stock up on it when we visit her (it freezes well), but the recipe can be made with other brands of blue cheese or with a similar cheese such as Roquefort. You can also substitute evaporated milk for the heavy cream – it’ll be less creamy but still great!
1 pound corkscrew pasta or elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1¾ cups shredded white Cheddar cheese (7 ounces)
10 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
PREHEAT oven to 400º.
GREASE a baking pan.
1. Par-cook pasta.
2. In a 4-quart pot, melt the butter. Add cream, whisking occasionally until cream comes to a slow boil. Add flour & garlic powder and whisk to combine. Add milk, whisking occasionally until milk comes to a boil (about 5 minutes). As soon as you start to see bubbles, add the shredded cheddar and melt; then add half the blue cheese and let it melt. Turn the heat off. Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat pasta with sauce.
3. Spoon pasta into baking pan. Sprinkle remaining blue cheese over the top. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
For an interesting history of macaroni and cheese, here’s an article from Smithsonian Magazine: Marvelous Macaroni and Cheese.