Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Slice of Macaroni and Cheese
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Over the years, my hubby and I have been continuously changing our macaroni and cheese recipe, trying to make it better and tastier. We love making it from scratch because it gives us leftovers for lunch or an easy dinner.

He and I began making this dish in a simple way by boiling the pasta, making a cheesy béchamel, and baking it all in a pan. It was excellent this way, but we wanted some more pizazz. We added protein, and some spices to give it a bit of heat. Both of us really love eating spicy food, and this was a logical next step in making this macaroni and cheese even better!

We didn’t want the spices to be overwhelming; we were looking to enhance the overall flavors. By adding small amounts of star anise, paprika, cayenne, and nutmeg, we gave the meat the savory notes we wanted, and also pairing those same ingredients to the cheesy noodles.

Our next edit in our recipe whittled down to texture. The mac and cheese was creamy and incredibly tasty, but we were missing a bit of crunch. We knew we had to add some breadcrumbs to the top, and what is better than making cheesy breadcrumbs?! Instead of parmesan (which is wonderful as well), we opted for pecorino. This cheese definitely has a stronger flavor, but I really *love* sheep-milk cheeses. He and I believe it was a necessary modification to an already superb recipe. The mustard, garlic, and hot sauce were also revisions that we made along the way, making it the recipe we have today.

Recipe for Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Yield:
  • 12 Slices
Time:
  • Preparation:
  • Cooking:

Ingredients

Protein:

  • 454g (1lb) Ground Beef
  • 10g (2t) Worcestershire Sauce
  • 10g (about 1½t) Kosher Salt
  • ½g (¼t) Black Pepper, ground
  • ½g (¼t) White Pepper, ground
  • ½g (about 2-3 points) Star Anise
  • ½g (¼t) Paprika
  • ¼g (⅛t) Cayenne Pepper
  • ¼g (⅛t) Nutmeg

Béchamel:

  • 70g (about 5T) Unsalted Butter
  • 70g (½-cup plus 1T) All-Purpose Flour
  • 946g (1 quart) Whole Milk
  • 50g (⅓) large Onion
  • 5g (1t) Glace de viande, optional
  • 1 Whole Clove
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 Thyme, sprig
  • 4g (about ½t) Kosher Salt
  • Pinch Ground Mace and Ground White Pepper, to taste

Macaroni and Other Additions:

  • 454g (1lb) Macaroni, dried
  • 454g (1lb) Cheddar, grated
  • 10g (2t) Dijon Mustard
  • 30g (about 10 cloves) Roasted Garlic
  • Dash Tabasco, optional
  • 45g (3T) Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 45g (⅓-cup) Pecorino, grated and packed
  • 90g (1 cup) Panko

Procedure

  • Bring the beef and Worcestershire sauce together into a large bowl.
  • Grind the spice mix and add it to the ground beef and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well.
  • Cook the beef on medium flame until much of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.
  • Measure out the butter and flour into two small bowls. Set aside.
  • Separately, measure the rest of the béchamel ingredients into a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn off the flame and strain the milk.
  • Bring a large pot of water (about 6 quarts) to a boil.
  • While the water is on the flame, melt the butter in a large fry pan on low flame. Once the butter has melted, slowly whisk in the flour, taking care to not brown the flour and butter (this is the blonde roux). When the flour is incorporated, ladle in the warmed milk, continuing to whisk in the milk slowly until the mixture has thickened. Taste-test to see if the béchamel needs mace and white pepper. Add as necessary and mix. Turn off the flame and set aside.
  • Boil the pasta in the pot of water, stirring occasionally, until one minute from al dente. Drain the pasta and return it back to the pot.
  • Stir in the cheddar, mustard, garlic, and Tabasco into the béchamel. Pour the mixture into the pot of macaroni and gently mix.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
  • Take about a third of the pasta and lay it into a 9×13-inch pan. Take half of the cooked beef and layer it on top. Take another third of the pasta and continue to layer, (pasta, meat, pasta, meat, pasta) until the pan is full.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until the macaroni and cheese is bubbling. Mix together the melted butter, pecorino, and panko. Top the dish with the panko mixture and bake until the crumbs have browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Slice into 12 pieces, and serve with some garlic bread and a small salad.

*Bunny Wisdom*

  • Slide the bay leaf and thyme into a section of the onion, and stud the onion with the clove. This will make it more convenient to fish out the aromatics instead of straining the mixture.
  • You can let the milk steep for 30 minutes, covered and off the flame, to bring out the flavors from the aromatics. Afterwards, proceed to strain and make the béchamel.
  • Remember to continue mixing the flour and milk together; it can get grainy and lumpy if the mixture isn’t thoroughly combined.
  • Glace de viande is a French glaze made by slowly evaporating the water content of brown stock until it becomes gelatinous. We use a ready-made glace by More than Gourmet.
  • Cooking the pasta just short of al dente insures the pasta won’t be soggy coming out of the oven.
  • The mustard, garlic, and Tabasco are all yummy and flavorful additions to our version of macaroni and cheese. Additionally, the pecorino and panko are equally delicious ingredients to make this a great dish. Pecorino can be substituted with parmesan, and panko with breadcrumbs.
  • Leftover slices can be refrigerated, or individually packed and frozen. Take out a slice, re-heat, and enjoy!

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Macaroni and Cheese

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