Monday, February 22

Heaven-Sent Macaroni and Cheese


Last week when my nieces from Rhode Island were visiting, I asked the 9-year-old what she would like for dinner. "Do you have any macaroni and cheese?" she asked.

"Sure, I'll make you some macaroni and cheese," I said, and began assembling the ingredients on the counter top, including pasta, milk, butter, and cheese.

She looked confused. "Where's the box?" she asked.

"What box?"

"The box that the macaroni and cheese comes in," she said.

"I don't use the kind that comes in a box. I'm going to make you macaroni and cheese from scratch," I said. "Do you think it'll be better than the one in the box?"

"Mmmm... I don't know. We'll see," she said.

She watched intently as I began making the macaroni and cheese. When I poured the shells into the boiling water, she asked, "Where are the elbows?"

"I'm using shells instead of elbows," I said.

"Mmm...." she replied quietly.

I was dealing with one shrewd mac n' cheese eater.

She observed silently as I whisked the cheese sauce made with both sharp white Cheddar and Gruyere until slow, large bubbles rose to the surface, gurgled, then popped. When it was irresistibly thick and creamy, I poured it over the hot pasta and stirred vigorously.

As it baked it the oven, the assertive aroma of Gruyere cheese permeated the kitchen. "That doesn't smell like macaroni and cheese," she said.

"Uh-oh," I thought to myself. "I went too far. I shouldn't have used Gruyere."

"But it still smells good," she added.

"Whew," I thought, "that was a close one."

As I removed the dish from the oven, she was impressed by its golden, bubbly, cheese topping. "Oooh, that looks good. It's all crunchy on top. The one in the box doesn't do that," she said.

"Ha! I've got her now," I thought.

Of course, what really mattered was the taste. I placed a big wedge of macaroni and cheese in front of her, anxiously awaited her evaluation. She took a mouthful. There was a slight hesitation as she held it in her mouth. Then she began chewing and smiling. She swallowed. Her eyes rolled upward, and she said breathlessly, "Auntie Susan, this is heaven."

That's right, baby. Score one for Auntie Susan.

heaven-sent macaroni and cheese

Heaven-Sent Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6
Print recipe only here.

1 pound small shells, or other macaroni, such as elbows
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sharp white Cheddar cheese, plus 1/2 cup for the top
1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese, plus 1/2 cup for the top
a generous amount of salt and black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a deep 2 1/2 quart baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

2. Cook pasta in salted water, about 2 minutes short of being fully cooked; it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain the cooked pasta, but do not rinse. Place in a large bowl.

3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Slowly add milk, whisking continuously, until it reaches a boil. Reduce heat, and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cheese and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth; remove from heat. Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce, and toss well. Pour into the prepared baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup cheese. Bake until the cheese bubbles around the edges and the top turns golden brown, about 35-40 minutes.

You might also enjoy these pasta recipes from Food Blogga: 
Italian Macaroni and Cheese with Pancetta
Creamy Goat Cheese and Beet Green Pasta
Penne with Italian-American "Gravy," Meatballs, and Sausage
Orange Cauliflower Mac 'n Cheese (yes, it's healthier and good)
Cellentani with Lemony Broccoli, Toasted Walnuts, and Breadcrumbs

You might also enjoy these macaroni and cheese recipes:
Crab Mac n' Cheese recipe from Use Real Butter
Mushroom-Herb Macaroni and Cheese recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
Chef Terrance Brennan's Gourmet Mac n' Cheese recipe from Picky Palate
Slow-Roasted Tomato Macaroni and Cheese recipe from The Perfect Pantry


Sarah said...

What a nice aunt. Although her mom might be a little upset because her boxed macaroni will never compare to Auntie Susan.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

sarah-That made me laugh because the day they returned home, her mom called me asking for the recipe! :)

Bellini Valli said...

Score another one for Auntie!!My foray into serving up homemade "mac and cheese" to my daughters friends when they were young was not as successful...and can you believe it I have mac and cheese bubbling in the oven:D

Scribbit said...

Gruyere is serious cheese :) She's got good taste!

leena! said...

I encountered a similar situation, only it was with my husband ;) Great post!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

You are brave, trying to convert a youngster. Congratulations on a job well done! This is certainly the way I want to spend eternity!

Maria said...

Ha! That is too funny. Glad you opened her eyes to bigger and better things. Don't you love being an auntie? It is the best job in the world:)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

It looks heavenly indeed! Homemade mac & cheese are the best!



Catherine said...

Well done for converting your neice, her mum will be glad of it too surely, when she sees the gorgeous, bubbling mac n cheese coming out of her oven! :)

Dandy said...

That looks heaven-sent for sure. Oh how I love cheese.

Kate said...

My nieces say that about my scratch mac-n-cheese too. They beg me to make it for them, and I tell you, I've never seen girls devour something like they tackle that dish. I think next time I make it that I'd better have gruyere on hand. That sounds perfect, along with a nice crunchy topping of seasoned and browned panko crumbs.

Debbie said...

I'm going to try this recipe. It looks delicious Susan. My son loves macaroni and cheese and I think he would like this recipe...I know I do!!!

Emily Catherine said...

When we were kids, my brother's favorite food was Velveeta mac&cheese. One day, my aunt was babysitting us, and she decided to make my brother some homemade mac and cheese. She worked so hard on it, thinking that this meal would surely put her in the running for best aunt ever.

When she presented the meal to my brother, he took one look at it and turned up his nose. He wouldn't even taste it, because the noodles weren't shell-shaped, and the cheese was the wrong color. No amount of begging could get him to take even one single solitary bite!

My brother became a very adventurous eater over time, but my aunt still tells that story at family gatherings!

Karen said...

"Where's the box?" Haha. Glad you made a convert out of her! I remember once my Mom cooked some homemade chocolate pudding. None of us three kids liked it and begged her to make it the "real" way... out of the box!

Livin Local said...

Auntie Susan, you rock!

Pam said...

What a great story and a great aunt also! Who could resist Gruyere? I bet she will be looking at that "box" with a new set of eyes now! Good post!

Anh said...

You may as well convert me, Susan. I am never a big fan of mac cheese. But I will try your recipe ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow, looks amazing! I want it in my belly

Manggy said...

Oh, kids... Hey, you can start a one-woman revolution to destroy the atrocity that is boxed mac and cheese. My little cousins love the stuff too. Mmm. Cheese powder.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Hooray -- another victory for real food! Some day your niece will be making your recipe for mac and cheese, and whoever she's making it for will say, "ooooh, this tastes like heaven."

The Teacher Cooks said...

Kids and that boxed macaroni! Blame it on the commercials on TV that do funny things to their minds. Your macaroni and cheese looks amazing!

Beth said...

All time comort food...and you have to make it from scratch, tastes so much better

Cookie baker Lynn said...

I'm so sad that your nieces have gone home. I love your stories! You are an awesome aunt. Way to open up their little macaroni and cheese world!

Unplanned Cooking said...

I always swell with pride when I get compliments from both the adults and the kids at the table!

Lisa said...

I know I would certainly enjoy this. Love all that cheese! What a sweet Aunt you are.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance said...

I'm so glad that story did end with her asking for Kraft after all. Nice work!

ChichaJo said...

What a great aunt! :) I love gruyere so I think it's fantastic that you've incorporated it here!

Rose&Thorn said...

What a wonderful story - you have rescued someone from the grips of fast food and introduced that little girl to a life of real food - made with ingredients and not flavourants and artificial colourants. Well done.
As a Mac 'n cheese lover, you have my vote any time.

Johanna GGG said...

I am so glad your niece has learnt the joys of cooking from scratch and the boxes aren't the source of all good food - and I am sure you have added some sophistication to her diet with the gruyere - she sounds like a sweetie pie!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Way to go, Auntie Susan! I struggle with this obstacle from time to time with our kids - they're so used to the name-brand, out-of-a-box (or from a fast food restaurant) flavors, that sometimes it's hard to convince them that the more intricate, wholesome, real flavors of made-from-scratch dishes are superior! They're coming around though - my daughter was much more impressed with the orange chicken we made from scratch than what she's used to from Panda Express! And as for your mac and cheese? Sounds like heaven to me, too!

Jenny said...

Your mac does indeed look heavenly!! Thanks for the shout out too :)

cinderelly said...

it looks AMAZING! i had a similar experience with my daughter once long ago. i had a pirated luby's restaurant mac 'n cheese recipe, and she had previously only eaten blue box mac 'n cheese too. now she won't even eat that other stuff!

Anonymous said...

Can this be frozen, and if so, do recommend freezing it before or after cooking?

Roara said...

I LOVE this post! you so totally rock the cool aunt stuff.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Loved this story! I am thinking REAL mac and cheese is going to have to feature in my kids' cooking club next term. We need to make kids realise how easy it is to make stuff that is SO MUCH BETTER!

Jenni said...

This sounds fabulous! I'm going to try it for dinner tonight, I had homemade mac n cheese on the menu last week without a recipe and it never materialized (poor planning on my part) so I was excited to see your recipe here! I think the kids will agree with your niece! :)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Love the breathless quality of this post ... and the mac & cheese Auntie Susan.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

val-Great minds? :)

michelle-She really does!

leena-Don't you love it?

tw-That would be heavenly. :)

maria-It is a pretty awesome job!


catherine-I think she'll love it too!

dandy-It's so easy to love.

kate-I love toasted breadcrumbs on top too.

debbie-Hope you both enjoy it!

emily-That's a wonderful story. No wonder she tells it all the time! My older niece is an adventuresome eater and will try anything, but my younger niece sounds like your brother! :)

karen-At least I thought "outside the box," right? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) ;)

livin local-Wow! Thanks!

pam-I think she will, indeed.

anh-This might just do it!

bexbakes-I bet you do! :)

mark-Cheese powder is tough to beat with the little ones!

lydia-Oh, that's such a lovely image.

theteachercooks-Yeah, let's blame TV!

beth-It really is so much better.

lynn-Thanks! You just made me smile. :)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

unplannedcooking-That's what we're looking for, right? ;)

lisa-Aw, thanks. :)

michelle-Me too!

joey-Oh, thank you!

rose-Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I appreciate it. :)

johanna-She is a sweetie pie. I think she's well on her way to become a foodie like her aunt. :)

tastyeatsathome-It's a process, but I do believe if we as adults keep offering our kids real food, they'll develop a taste for it over the processed stuff.

jenny-You're welcome.

cinderelly-Yay! Another convert!

rora-You so just made my day!

a-I haven't actually frozen it. But I would suggest freezing the whole dish uncooked. Or freezing already cooked mac n cheese in individual portions.Let me know if you do it and how it works!

mardi-Kids cooking club? That sounds fun!

jenni-Then this recipe came just in time!

tanna-Thank you, my dear!


Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Susan - actually BETTER than that, it's a BOYS' cooking club! (I work at an all boys' school) for 9-11 year olds. LOVE IT!

Kristy Sayer said...

I think I'm going to need to try this mac and cheese recipe
Thanks for posting! :D

Susan from Food Blogga said...

mardi-That must be wonderful! I can see why you love it.

kristy-I sure hope you do!

Amber said...

I made this tonight and it was AMAZING! I couldn't find gruyere and substituted regular Swiss. We absolutely LOVED it! Thanks!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

amber-Yay! I always appreciate hearing from people who have tried my recipes. I'm so happy you enjoyed it. :)

Janelle said...

I'm making this tonight. I couldn't spring for Gruyere at my grocery store ($17.99 for .6 lbs??), so I got a half pound of a cheaper smoked Gruyere, and a half pound of Muenster that I think I'll throw in, too (I can't stand Swiss, that's not an option). What I still lack, I'll just make up with sharp cheddar. I love homemade mac and cheese, and the varieties are nearly endless. I have a favorite already, but we'll see how this stacks up. :)

Janelle said...

Okay, so apparently I was having a brain malfunction in the cheese section of the grocery store. I knew that for 2 cups of cheese, I would need 8 oz, but for some reason a half-pound was just not adding up to 8 oz in my head.

Anyway, I made this for dinner tonight with smoked Gruyere and extra sharp non-white Cheddar cheese. I used whole-wheat flour because that's what I had. It's really yummy! You weren't kidding, though, about needing a deep casserole dish! I thought 4 1/2 cups was going to be WAY too much milk, and then I thought it would never set up. But it did, and it was worth it!

Buffie said...

Umm, this sounds so delicious. I'm going to have to try this. I haven't been able to convery hubby to homemade mac and cheese yet, but I keep trying. Maybe this one will do the trick and we won't have to keep getting the nasty velveeta box stuff.

Patsyk said...

I need to try this one! I would really prefer a "from scratch" version that my boys would eat... and this has serious potential since I know it was a hit w/your niece!

Aparna said...

I never knew till recently that mac 'n cheese came in boxes.
We don't get that here (yet!) so my daughter doesn't have that to compare mine with. :)

I think I'll agree with your niece's sentiments looking at yours, though.