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Mac & Cheese - Cook's Country

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This is now my family's favorite version, by far, of this classic dish. I may toss out my other recipes. The original called for 4 cups of shredded mild cheddar and 2 cups of sharp cheddar, but I simplified that to 8 oz (3 cups) of each, and added a bread crumb topping. Don't forget to plan for the 10-15 minute rest period at the end. (Photo is my own.)

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Ingredients

  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (see note)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 oz (3 cups) shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz (3 cups) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Panko bread crumbs for topping.

Details

Servings 8
Preparation time 45mins
Cooking time 80mins
Adapted from cookscountry.com

Preparation

Step 1

1. COOK MACARONI Adjust oven to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and macaroni and cook until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain pasta and return to pot. Pour diced tomatoes with their juices over pasta and stir to coat. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

2. MAKE SAUCE Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Stir in flour and cayenne and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in half-and-half and broth until smooth. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper until cheeses melt. Pour sauce over macaroni and stir to combine. Add a generous amount of Panko bread crumbs, spreading them over the top of the casserole.

3. BAKE MACARONI AND CHEESE Scrape mixture into 13 by 9-inch baking dish set in rimmed baking sheet and bake until top begins to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. You may want to add 3-5 minutes under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

MAKE AHEAD: Macaroni and cheese can be made in advance through step 2. Scrape mixture into 13 by 9-inch baking dish, cool, lay plastic wrap directly on surface of pasta, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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