It’s August, which for some reason, seems to set off an internal alarm clock, when I suddenly start longing for all things Fall: pumpkins, lightweight sweaters, football, butternut squash, apples, Halloween and cool, crisp weather. This alarm clock seems to go off at this time every year, In fact, the hotter the weather, the earlier my Fall obsession begins.
I know, I know…I shouldn’t be wishing away all this wonderful sunny, warm, beachy, humid weather where the days are long, the pools are open and our kiddos can play outside till the sun goes down. School’s out and all we can think about is vacation. So, why on earth would I wish all that summer glory away? I must be delusional, right?
THE MAC AND CHEESE STORY
So, this Fall is a little different for my family. My baby is starting Kindergarten. He will do great and I will be a mess. So, with this upcoming momentous rite of passage and the change in seasons, it’s got me thinking Fall + back to school meals = Mac and Cheese.
For my family, I use a blend of cheeses: New York Sharp Cheddar, American and Swiss. It’s simple, it’s easy and it gets ooey-gooey good. I’ve tried a lot of different combinations, some even fancy and expensive, but this combination has consistently yielded the best result.
So, what’s the star of this dish; the secret that puts Mama’s Mac and Cheese over the top? Panko bread crumbs toasted in butter and garlic. This little secret is incredibly easy to achieve and adds a layer of garlicky goodness (aka heaven) to this dish. Nom, nom, nom.
A FEW EXTRAS
Some other easy options to add a little something special to this already ahhmazing Mama’s Mac and Cheese: bacon, jalepenos, ground turkey, skim milk (for a skinny version), stewed tomatoes or ground mustard.
Mama's Mac and Cheese is that ooey-gooey cheesy recipe you have been looking for; it's kid tested and husband approved.
- 4 Cups Shredded Cheese Equal amounts of American, Swiss and NY Sharp Cheddar
- 4 Cups Whole Milk
- 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 2 Tbsp Flour
- 1 Package Elbow Macaroni
- 1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
- 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
Preheat the oven to 375
In a sauté pan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
Add the panko breadcrumbs. Move around the pan until the crumbs start to look toasted. Be careful not to burn them.
Set aside to use as your topping.
In a large soup pot, fill 1/2 full with water. Over a high heat, boil the water. Salt the water before adding the macaroni. Once boiling, add the macaroni and cook to package directions. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
In a separate pot, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of flour to the butter and whisk constantly until it thickens.
Whisk the mixture constantly while adding some of the milk. Add your 2nd tbsp of flour. Continuously whisk the mixture until it thickens again. Add some cheese and whisk.
At this point, you will continue to add cheese and milk while continuously whisk it until it thickens and then add more milk and cheese. Do this until you have used all the milk and all the cheese. Remove from heat.
Once your sauce is made, pour it into your large soup pot that you used to boil the water. Add the drained macaroni and stir. Once the pasta is evenly coated, pour the entire mixture into an oven safe dish. You can use one large casserole dish, or split it into 2 smaller dishes. This freeze well and makes a lot.
Sprinkle your toasted panko bread crumbs all over the top of the Mac and Cheese. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.
This dish can easily be made ahead, even frozen for a later date. Follow all directions except for baking the Mac and Cheese. If you freeze for later, bake at that time.
Modify your Mac and Cheese for the kiddos! In a greased muffin pan, add scoops of your Mac and Cheese mixture, filling each opening. Sprinkle with panko bread crumbs. Bake as directed. Let cook slightly and then carefully remove the Mac and Cheese muffins. Serve immediately. The kids will go crazy over these muffins.