Any of you out there with young children know that Macaroni & Cheese is a staple of most kid’s diets from the time they have teeth. And while I have two really good, healthy and adventurous eaters of my own, I know that given the choice, they would have Mac & Cheese for every meal. Breakfast included.
The older and wiser I get =) the more I realize that real food is always better than processed food. Yes, the blue and yellow boxed Mac & Cheese has its place, but it also has ingredients that I can’t pronounce on the side of the box and I’m just not comfortable putting chemicals into my kids bodies when I can avoid it.
So, I have been on the search for the perfect Mac & Cheese since my 5 year old was born. This is especially difficult for me because my Grandma Ruby made THE BEST Mac & Cheese I’ve ever had. It was amazing. And although I might be idolizing those noodles in my head and remembering them to be something they weren’t, I have been trying to find something that would quiet my cravings for many years now.
This past spring, my hubby and I went to visit my brother-in-law in Seattle. LOVED Seattle. On our last day, we took a walk down to Pike’s Market before we had to head to the airport. We grabbed a cup of Beecher’s Flagship Macaroni while we were there (mostly because my mother-in-law told me we HAD to) and it was, in fact, magnificent. This recipe is unintentionally very close to Beecher’s, nothing like my Grandma’s. Although my kids didn’t care for this one, I think it’s one of the best versions of the dish I’ve ever had. Enjoy!
1 pound pasta of your choice – I recommend Penne
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. shredded Fontina cheese (try to buy a mild Fontina if possible)
Pinch of grated nutmeg (always use fresh when possible)
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, although the jarred stuff works just fine
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions just until 1-2 minutes shy of al dente.
Meanwhile, dice 4 tablespoons of the butter and place in a large mixing bowl. Warm the cream in a small saucepan or the microwave. Cover to keep warm.
Once the pasta is cooked, add to the bowl with the butter and toss to coat well. Stir in the warm cream and the Fontina until the cheese starts to melt. Mix in salt to taste, and add the nutmeg.
Pour the mixture into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Mix in the panko breadcrumbs and shredded Parmesan. Toss with a fork to coat evenly with the butter. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the pasta in the baking dish.
Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats