Sundays at Giggi's, my Italian grandmother, the entire family gathered 'round her table and shared a meal together...every Sunday...every family member.
When I moved to the left coast after college I missed those Sunday suppers. One day, I called Giggi and she patiently walked me through her secret formulas for my favorite dishes.
We have those hand written cards to this day, her leg of lamb, macaroni and cheese, and cabbage and beans. My note at the bottom of the mac 'n cheese card says, "make it tonight"!
My grandfather, "Pops," would always cover his plate of mac 'n cheese with hot red pepper flakes and ask me if I wanted to try some.
To be like him, I would carefully put a few sprinkles of the flakes on my mac 'n cheese. He got a kick out of how hot I thought mine was.
Macaroni and Cheese is not health food, it is comfort food. Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon meal.
Gather your family, put some delicious food on the table and watch what happens, Great food, Great Family, Great Fun.
Giggi's Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 pound macaroni noodles or other small pasta, See Gr8 Tip
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 ¾ cups milk, low-fat or non-fat
- 24 ounces Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese*, cut in ¼" pieces or grate it
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup bread crumbs, Giggi used fresh bread crumbs, Panko works well, in a pinch, classic breadcrumbs will also work.
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Prepare a 13" x 9" pan by spraying with olive oil, you can also use a round casserole dish, you just won't get as much crunchy topping!
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Add pasta and cook until slightly under-cooked, very al dente (the pasta will cook more in the casserole).
- Rinse and drain pasta and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat.
- Add the flour and whisk until a roux forms (approximately 6 minutes over medium low heat). I use a whisk to start then switch to a rubber spatula. This mixture should not brown, you just want to cook the rawness out of the flour.
- Slowly add the milk, continuing to stir until combined. Bring this mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring. You really shouldn't leave this mixture, it needs to be tended.
- Add the cheddar cheese about a cup at a time, stirring. Add the next batch of cheese when the first is mostly melted. Continue stirring until the cheese is melted.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the cheese mixture over the noodles and stir to combine.
- Pour mixture into the prepared pan.
- Mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter and bread crumbs until crumbly. I do this with my fingers, just smush it all together.
- Sprinkle over the top of the casserole dish.
- Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until top is browned and mixture is bubbling.
- Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Gr8 Appetizer Tip (from Anna):
Mac 'n Cheese Bites make a fun appetizer. Simply put mini cupcake liners in a mini muffin pan, fill each with the mac 'n cheese and bake at 375ºF for 20-30 minutes. If they don't brown enough, just put them under the broiler for a minute or two. Literally, a minute or two, it won't take long. I did this for our recent Wild West Gr8 Dinner and they were a hit!