The Wife’s Sunday Dinners – Baked Macaroni and Cheese

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Dark Horse

I hope you guys are ready because this is a post yeeeeeears in the making. Ever since I started the blog I’ve been trying my hardest to get permission to do this recipe. And after countless hours of drilling and persuading, I finally got the rights from the creator to go for it.

Yes, my wife is finally letting me post her Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe!

What?! What do you mean what’s so special about mac & cheese? Are you high?! This is about as comforting as comfort food gets! And it’s easily my favorite dish from my wife’s repertoire.

Little known fact: Before my wife, I never had baked mac & cheese. No, before you start questioning my childhood, I wasn’t deprived… I was Hispanic. Rice, beans, plátanos, yucca and avocados graced our tables. I’m not complaining, trust me. But still, my eyes weren’t open to new worlds till she opened them. And she wonders why I love her so.

Sadly though, she doesn’t make it nearly as often as I would like. “It wouldn’t be special if I made it all the time”, she’d say. And I’d always counter with “I know, it’ll be even MORE special!”

She never buys my reasoning though, so I’m forced to wait countless months between every preparation. As if macaroni elbows are only in season 4 times a freaking year.

On top of that, every time it is made I beg and plead to let me document her making it so I can put it on the blog. “No, it’s my recipe, not yours. I’m not going to have you steal it like you did my Biscuits & Gravy recipe.”

For the record, I have no idea what’s she’s talking about.

But! Something happened this time. Something clicked in her head and she didn’t stop me when I proclaimed “I’m going to get my camera!” Nope, she went along with it. And on top of that, she even cooperated and told me the measurements! I totally thought my luck ended with being able to take pictures and I was going to have to guess everything else.

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I had a lot of fun just sitting back and taking pictures, as you’ll probably notice from the photographic evidence in the post. Kinda makes me wish she had a blog and I just took the pictures and wrote stuff. A huge thing I’m thankful for is she made this on one of the brightest days since fall started. And I love me natural light so the shots came out great.

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The catch though was she wasn’t waiting for me. Through the whole thing she probably warned me twice on what she was about to do to get ready on either side of her. Despite her rushing trying to do stuff before I set up the shot and general disapproval, I know deep down she enjoyed it too. Those dirty looks and mumbled curses she gave – every time I told her to “do that again!” or “pick up a good handful of cheese and drop it from this height…[click-click] yeeeess! [click] ohhh yeeeah, right there!… Now do another handful just in case..” – were all out of love and fun for the project.

And because every good recipe has a back story, she told me this one’s:

Nothing crazy like the recipe was found behind a picture frame in an basement, but she has been having this mac & cheese since she was young. Her mom used to make it for her and she always looked forward to it. And get this, she only made it twice a year. Twice. A. YEAR! That’s borderline child abuse. I guess macaroni elbows were even more scarce than they are nowadays.

So below you will find the comfort food of comfort foods, my favorite dish next to pizza, and something that I always look forward to. Is it the best ever? Maybe. Is it worth this hype? You bet your ass.

Baked Mac & Cheese

1 each – Macaroni Elbows, 16oz Box
1 each – Ricotta, 15oz container
4 tablespoons – Corn Starch
1 teaspoon – Dry Mustard
1 teaspoon – Salt
1/4 teaspoon – Pepper
6 cups – 1% Milk
4 tablespoons – Butter
6 cups – Mild Cheddar Cheese, shredded
to taste – Salt
3/4 cup – Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (for topping)
1/2 cup – Parmesan Cheese, grated (optional)
2/3 cup – Breadcrumbs, Italian seasoned (optional)

Notes:

  • To take away some of the magic from all of this, I have learned there was no mystic thought process that caused this creation. It’s actually from the back of a box of Mueller’s Pasta. I’m… I’m trying hard to not think about it too much. It’s difficult though. I’m not saying it’s a big deal, I’m just saying it’s like being inspired to devote your life to art because of the one-of-a-kind Van Gogh painting you found in your mom’s attic as a kid. And then finding out years into your studying that it was painted by your drunk uncle one night with your finger painting set. I feel like I’ve been lied to, but still, I guess it doesn’t take away from how great it is. It is adapted though! So that’s something.
  • I love the parmesan and breadcrumbs on top. She adds a fraction of what I would add because “the kids don’t like it”, but I think the breadcrumbs make the topping. So it’s up to you.
  • The ricotta is the big adaptation to the recipe. And it’s a great one. It adds a level of creaminess and is great for preventing it from drying out.
  • Another big adaptation is the amount of cheese used. Yeah, it’s only a little bit more..
  • You want to use mild cheddar as the main cheese, but don’t be afraid to use different ones in there also. For instance, in this batch she used mild, sharp, parmesan, and pepper jack. So if you have a few open bags of shredded cheeses in your fridge then now is the perfect time to put them to use.
  • This is a great dish right out of the oven. If you cut it up right away it’ll be melting everywhere and won’t hold it’s shape. But if you wait for a few hours after baking, or the next day even better, then it’ll hold a great shape thanks to all the cold cheese. It’s easy to reheat and will be amazing for a few days after.
  • The shape it holds makes it perfect for fried mac & cheese if you’re into that sort of thing.
  • Which you freaking should be. My goodness, fried mac & cheese? C’mon..
  • This recipe can make a nice, thick, 9×13 sized baking dish of mac & cheese. If you’d like, you can totally split it into 2 9×13 baking dishes. You know, Thanksgiving is coming up so that’ll be a good option for that.

Alright, ready to never buy boxed mac & cheese again?

  • Off the bat, oven to 375 and get the salted water boiling. Throw the pasta in there and cook for 6 minutes. Once it’s done, drain it as best you can and put it in a fairly big bowl. Preferably one that can double for a Halloween candy bowl. Ok, fine, just kidding.

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  • Next, take the ricotta and stir it into the macaroni. Get it in there good, get it nicely distributed and evenly coated. Set it aside when done.

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  • In a heavy bottomed pot, put the corn starch, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Turn up the heat to medium, medium-high heat, and take your insane amount of milk and pour it in while stirring constantly.

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And I mean constantly. This is one step that she’s serious about because it was the bane of many batches of mac & cheese that we had to sacrifice to the Comfort Food Gods. She is adamant about sitting there and stirring, stirring, stirring. If you don’t then the corn starch will not incorporate properly and will wind up sticking to the bottom of the pan and it will burn. Which brings me to another of her warnings: When stirring, don’t scrape the bottom of the pan. Just in case your constant vigilance and stirring isn’t enough and you wind up getting some corn starch burning on the bottom, if you scratch it and break it up, your entire batch of mac & cheese will taste burnt. TRUST me when I say it will be one of the saddest days of your life if that were to happen.

So just do us all a favor and stir, stir, stir, just don’t scrape the bottom.

  • Anyway, stir until everything is incorporated. Once it is, add the butter and keep stirring till it’s melted. Then, keep stirring till the mixture starts to boil. Once it does, let it boil for one minute (while still stirring) and then take it off the heat.

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After that, it’s time to bring in the tower of power. That huge bowl of orangy goodness that you’ve been staring at since you started. My wife uses about 2 times more cheese than what the recipe calls for. No, she does not play around.

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  • Go ahead and put all 6 cups in the milk mixture and stir it around until all the cheese is melted. It won’t be perfectly smooth, so that’s ok.

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  • Pour the cheese mixture into the bowl with the ricotta laced macaroni, and give it a really good stir until all the cheese is in there.

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  • At this point, you want to taste it. She always give me this pleasure because I’m “so damn picky and can never have enough stupid salt”. Ahhh, I love when she thinks about me like that.

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  • After you taste it, add salt, and taste it again, you’ll be ready to pan it up. So get your pan (or pans) and spray with non-stick. Pour the heavenly river of cheesy goodness in and marvel in its glory.

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  • Top it with the extra sharp cheddar cheese.

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  • if you’re doing parmesan and breadcrumbs (which you reeeeeeally need to do), Mix them together and then sprinkle them on top as well. Or just do it separate, who cares!

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  • After that, it’s ready for the oven. So put it in for 25 minutes and do the hardest part of the whole recipe.

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Wait.

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  • If it’s not browned good, turn on the broiler for a minute or two till it is.

When it comes out, have tissues ready to wipe the tears of joy from your eyes. Now remember, you can dig in, but I’d say its best to wait till it settles and it’s not a pool of melty, runny cheese. Whatever you choose to do, just get a plate and enjoy the roni out of it.

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And that’s that. It’s seriously simple and utterly amazing. Magical. Devine. Should I go on? Because I could.

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May or may not be my portion..

I’m so happy to be able to post this here. It really is one of my favorite things ever, and to be able to do it like this – a recipe of my wife’s, her cooking it and me just taking pictures – was insanely fun and a great memory to share with her. I cannot wait to do it again soon, even though she’d probably be ok with never having me take 600 some odd pictures over her shoulder while she’s trying to cook dinner. She has a good handful of stuff she makes that I love, but she refuses to regularly cook. Says stupid stuff like she’s intimidated by my background. Pfft! Maybe she’ll do more stuff now, we’ll see.

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Until next time! Adios.

 

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