When I say I love mac and cheese I mean it. I’ll take the boxes stuff with the creamy sauce packet. Never the one with powdered cheese. But if you really want to make me love you, bring me a pan (yes a whole pan) of baked Mac and Cheese.
I’ll be back to add pictures
As with most things I cook, I only started making baked mac after my move to California in 2010. I remember asking my sister the simplest of questions: covered or uncovered in the oven? Season in pot or pan? How much milk? Flour? To that last one she said she’s disown me if I ever put flour in the baked Mac. Actually, what she said is the spirit of every ancestor and church mother will haunt me for the rest of my life. And you better BETTER not even think of bread crumbs!
Ok so what do you need? Remember, we are cooking disabledly so I use things (like pre-shredded cheese) to make my life easy.
- 13×9 baking dish. Actually any size will work depending on your needs.
- Stock pot (to boil noodles)
- 1 block of sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 block Monterrey jack cheese
- 1 bag of shredded cheddar/Monterrey jack cheese mixed (or just grate another half block of each)
- 1 16oz box of elbow macaroni (2-3 cups uncooked)
- 2-3 tablespoons of butter
- 1-2 eggs (this affects the sturdiness/custard)
- 1/3 cup of milk. Any kind. I prefer 1% or coconut milk
- Seasonings: Seasoned salt, pepper, basil or oregano, paprika
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
Once you’ve gathered your ingredients you’re ready to start.
- Turn the oven on to 375 degrees.
- Cut the blocks of cheese into 1-inch cubes. They don’t have to be perfect. I cut about half a block for each, especially if I’m using the larger 18oz blocks. Or! Just cube the whole block and freeze any extra. Yes, I freeze cheese.
- Pour the uncooked elbows into the pot. Pasta is weird to make because it expands whilst boiling. So you have to just figure out how much you want. I once boiled a whole box and had leftovers for 3 days!
- Add water until it is an inch or two over the pasta. I eyeball this and picture two knuckles deep.
- Add the seasonings, except for the paprika, the optional oil, and stir. The oil is just hell keep the pasta from sticking.
- Bring it all to a boil. Boil until the elbows are only ALMOST cooked through (also known as al dente). You don’t want it cooked all the way because you still have the baking step.
- Drain. I use a strainer over the sink for this step. Other people just use the pot’s lid. But I want to make sure all the water is out. Do not rinse. Do. Not. Rinse. That starch is helpful in baking.
- With the Mac still in the pot, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of butter, the milk, and the cubes of cheese. Make sure to stir and fold well. You want the cheese well distributed.
- Now crack the egg into the pot. Stir it in but be careful that it doesn’t cook. You don’t want scrambled eggs.
- At this point you can add a bit more seasoning since most of it was probably in the water. Not too much tho.
- Get your baking pan ready by coating the bottom and sides with some butter. It helps keep it from sticking but it also helps give it that nice crunch at the edges. Lawd!
- Now begin to dump or spoon about 1/3 of your pasta into the pan. It’s whatever is easier for you.
- Add some shredded/grated cheese
- Add another 1/3 of pasta and another layer of cheese. Then the last 1/3 of pasta and cover the top with the rest of the grated/shredded cheese.
- OR just add all the pasta mix and do just one layer of shredded on top. I like mine to be cheesy cheesy.
- Sprinkle paprika across the top.
- Place the pan uncovered into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is browning on top and bubbling along the sides.
- When ready remove from the oven and let it stand for a few minutes. This will allow the custard (milk, eggs, butter) to stiffen more.
And that’s it! That’s how you make Baby’s Mac!
Oh, side note: If you used regular cow’s milk in this recipe, when you get ready to reheat it, try adding a little coconut milk (unsweetened vanilla works). There’s something about that hint of sweetness that I love.
As with any recipe here, comment below to tell me how you liked it. Did you make any changes? Share below!