Good Old Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese must be my all-time favourite food. It has been for many years.  I could eat it every day, but once or twice a month is probably a healthier choice.   I'm not talking about that blue-boxed stuff with the packet of neon orange powder that so many kids like, but real Macaroni and Cheese made with elbow noodles, and layers of cheesy goodness, all bubbling and baked together with chewy, crisp edges and corners.  When I was a kid I once asked Mom why she didn't make the boxed stuff and she promptly and matter-of-factly replied, "Because it isn't real food."  That settled the matter for me.

Mom didn't make much macaroni and cheese when my sister and I were growing up because we usually ate Sabbath dinners at Aunt Amy's house and this was her main dish on Sabbaths.  I guess mom figured once a week was plenty.   In later years Mom did make a really great dish of macaroni and was well-known for it at church potlucks.  She'd sometimes have a big casserole of the gooey, cheesy delight ready when I'd come to visit.  (Oh, my just writing about it is making my mouth water.)   

Macaroni and Cheese is fairly simple to make and can be made several different ways.  This particular recipe I'm sharing is my favourite way to make this casserole.  I do make it other ways with a cheese or white sauce but I always go back this layering method which is the easiest and fastest way to make it.  Some people like to put in minced onion or a layer of diced canned tomatoes and that's nice also, but I love the plain old stuff the best. I guess it's because that's the way my mother and aunt made it. 

All measurements are approximate as I don't measure too precisely.  I just eyeball the ingredients and add the amounts I think will fit the baking dish.  Any pasta product can be used in the recipe but elbow macaroni is the traditional pasta. 

Good Old Macaroni and Cheese
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
3-4 cups or more grated medium or old cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or spray a 2 litre casserole dish.  I use an 8"x8" inch glass baking dish for this amount of macaroni.  

Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions except cook a couple of minutes less than time given.  Drain cooked macaroni and run a little cold water over the cooked pasta to keep it from sticking while putting the layers together.  Shake off as much of the water as you can.  Keep the macaroni in the strainer so it can keep draining.  

Sprinkle about 1 cup of grated cheese on the bottom of the baking dish.  Cover the cheese with a layer of cooked macaroni (about 1 ½ cups).  Cover with another layer of cheese and more macaroni.  You should have about 3 layers of macaroni covered with cheese.  Make sure your last layer is well covered with cheese.  

Beat the egg and add the milk.  I usually add about ¼ teaspoon salt to this mixture.  You may add pepper as well.  Pour the milk and egg mixture over the layers.  The milk and egg should come about half way up the casserole.  

Bake in the preheated oven about 40 minutes until bubbling and a little crisp on the edges.  If you like a nice chewy crust on the bottom and sides leave the macaroni in the oven another 10 or 15 minutes watching that it does not burn.  Remove from oven and let sit 5 or 10 minutes before serving. 

Makes 4-6 servings.

Cook macaroni a little less than the time given in the package directions.  You don't want mushy macaroni in the finished product.

 Drain the macaroni (the camera lens got all steamy) and rinse with a little cold water. 

 Cover the bottom of the baking dish with cheese.  This makes a nice bottom to the dish.

 Add a layer of cooked macaroni.  You may lightly sprinkle salt between the layers if you wish.

 Another layer of cooked macaroni over the cheese layer.

Beat the egg and mix with the milk.  I add ¼ salt to this mixture because I usually forget to salt the layers.

 I like to pour the milk and egg on before I add the final layer of cheese.

 A nice thick layer of cheese on top.  

All baked.  The top is usually a golden colour but I had this covered with foil because I had it in the oven with the timer on and I didn't want the top burner to burn the cheese when the oven came on.  (Did anyone understand that?)

This looks so good I could lick the screen!


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