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
- 20 ounces Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese*, cut in ¼" pieces or grated
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- 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 pasta and set aside.
- In the top of a double boiler, melt the butter.
- Add the flour and whisk until a roux forms (approximately 6 minutes over low heat).
- Slowly add the milk, continuing to stir until combined.
- Add the cheddar cheese and stir 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.
- Sprinkle over the top of the casserole dish.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until top is browned and mixture is bubbling.
- Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Gr8 Tip:Giggi's classic pasta was elbow macaroni. My new favorite is De Cecco Cavatappi. It is easy to keep it "al dente" and the ridges hold the cheese sauce nicely.
*Gr8 Cheese Tip:For the best taste and texture be sure to use the Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Anna has tried others and they don't melt as well or cook up as well.
Gr8 Do-Ahead Tip:This dish can be prepared a day ahead of time, up through Step 12. Cool, cover tightly and refrigerate. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and begin at Step 13. Cooking time may increase if starting with a cold dish from the refrigerator.
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!