The Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese …
|Melted butter||1 Teaspoon (for greasing baking dish)|
|Processed sharp cheddar cheese/Use an equal amount of pre-shredded processed cheese||24 Ounce (preferably by Kraft)|
|Vegetable oil||1⁄2 Teaspoon (Flavorless, for food processor blade, only if grating the cheese yourself)|
|Butter||1⁄4 Pound (1 stick)|
|All purpose flour||11 Teaspoon (unbleached)|
|Milk||4 Cup (64 tbs)|
|Ground white pepper||1 Teaspoon|
|Cayenne pepper||1⁄2 Teaspoon|
|Salt||To Taste (for cooking pasta)|
|Penne pasta||1 Pound (dried - spinach, plain or multi-flavored)|
|Shredded cheddar cheese/Use more of the shredded processed cheese||2 Cup (32 tbs) (best-quality mild or sharp aged)|
1) To set up: Bring an 8-quart pot of water to a boil and reduce to a simmer until needed for the pasta. Brush the interior of a 6-quart baking dish with melted butter and grease either the interior of the lid or the shiny side of a long piece of aluminum foil, set aside.
2) To grate the cheese: Lightly oil the steel blade of a food processor (to prevent cheese from clumping). Break up processed cheese into chunks and place in the work bowl. Using on-off pulses, chop cheese into small pieces and empty into a bowl. Alternatively, use a hand-held grater to shred cheese.
3) To make cheese sauce: Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat and, when hot and bubbling, stir in the flour. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, to cook the flour without browning. Add the milk in a steady stream, whisking to combine. Stir in white pepper and cayenne and bring mixture to a full simmer whisking frequently. Once mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low, switch to a wooden spoon and simmer the sauce, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chopped processed cheese (all at once) to the simmering sauce and stir, over low heat, until cheese is totally melted and the sauce has thickened.
4) To cook pasta: Return the pot of water to a rapid boil, add some salt, and then stir in the dried penne. Partially cook pasta for only 1/2 the shortest recommended cooking time (i.e. if box says “cook 12 to 13 minutes,” then parboil the pasta for only 6 minutes). Drain penne well and place in a large mixing bowl.
5) To assemble: Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir to combine. (At this point, the mixture will seem overly sauced. This is intentional, as the pasta will swell during baking.) Transfer the pasta mixture to the buttered baking dish and scatter the rest of the grated cheese on top. Either cover, greased side down, and bake immediately or allow to cool (uncovered) and then cover and bake later (or refrigerate for up to two days before baking).
6) To bake: Preheat the oven to 375o F. If chilled, bring the dish to room temperature. Bake (covered) for 30 minutes; then remove cover and continue to bake until the mixture is piping hot throughout and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes more. If, during the second half of baking, the cheese begins to over-brown, cover the top with the lid or loosely with greased aluminum foil (shiny side up, greased side down).
Time Management Tips
• The cheese can be grated days ahead and kept refrigerated in a securely covered bowl or sealed heavy plastic bag.
• The entire dish can be assembled as much as 2 days ahead and once cool, covered and refrigerated. If possible, bring close to room temperature before baking or lengthen “covered” baking time accordingly.
Delectable Additions to Macaroni and Cheese:
With tomatoes: Place the cooked pasta and cheese sauce into the buttered baking dish, lay thick slices of thickly sliced, ripe, beef steak tomatoes on top, before applying the last dose of grated Cheddar cheese. Alternatively, stir 4 cups grape tomatoes into the pasta and sauce. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake as directed.
With broccoli: Blanch 4 cups trimmed and sliced fresh broccoli in boiling lightly salted water (with a slice of celery to kill the aroma) until softened but not cooked through, 3 or 4 minutes. Drain and immediately refresh in ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain, pat dry and add broccoli to the pasta and cheese mixture when assembling.
With bacon: Add 8 ounces crumbled, crisply fried bacon when combining the pasta with the cheese sauce.