Baked Macaroni & Cheese - Recipe

Baked Macaroni and Cheese is on my list of personal comfort foods. This is not the neon orange cheese food that comes in a box from Kraft (though I admit I love that as well), but rather a creamy concoction started on the stovetop, but finished to a crusty perfection in the oven. If you'd like something a little quicker you don't have to finish in the oven, but then you lose the combination of the crusty goodness along the edges and top mixed with the creaminess in the middle. I always use finely shredded sharp cheddar, but feel free to use your cheese of choice. For a sharper flavor, substitute a 1/2 cup of the cheddar for a 1/2 cup of blue cheese. This recipe is featured in one of my favorite cookbooks, the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, and made with little variation it's just that good. The only way to really mess this up is to use high instead of medium heat when using the saucepan.

Baked Macaroni & Cheese - Candy Hearts and Paper Flowers

Mac and Cheese

Ingredients assembled

Whisk flour and melted butter until smooth

Add Milk and whisk until thick and bubbly

At this point you can either cook it for another 5 minutes or place in buttered casserole dish and bake

Baked with a paprika, cracker topping

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
8 oz cooked macaroni, elbow or spiral shaped work best
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup white flour
2 cups milk, I use skim (it's probably intended to be whole)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 tsp salt
paprika (optional)
crumbled butter cracker (optional)

Assemble ingredients before use, this is fairly important for this recipe.
In medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter
Whisk in flour until smooth, continue whisking for 1 minute over medium heat
Slowly pour in milk while whisking
Continue stirring over medium heat until thick and bubbly about 6-7 minutes
Switch from a whisk to a spoon (wooden recommended)
Stir in cheese and salt until melted and smooth
Add to macaroni and stir in to coat
Pour into buttered casserole dish
Sprinkle with paprika and/or crumbled butter crackers (like Townhouse Crackers)
Bake at 350F for 30 minutes

If you want to skip the baking, just stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes after combining the macaroni and cheese mixture.

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