Recipe 20: Creamy Mac and Cheese for Company (hybrid title)

I have so many recipes that I have been super-eager to try lately.  Despite my earlier complaint that I am sick of mac and cheese, I have had a resurgence of interest, anxious to try the new flavors, textures, variations on such a simple theme.  I have been holding back a bit to try to prevent both Loverman’s and my tastebuds from growing weary (or our waistlines from growing wider), but our local grocery store has just started offering generic gluten-free pastas, twice the amount of the name brands for about half the price.  Savings FTW.  Hopefully that will assist in getting these recipes accomplished without emptying the pockets too much.

You may have seen my addition in the post title hybrid title. “Hybrid title?” I can hear you wondering aloud (I have awesome hearing like that), “What does that mean?”  Well, I found this recipe in two different sources, one which called it “Company Mac and Cheese,” the instructions and ingredient list I am using here, and another which called it “Creamy Mac and Cheese.” So I combined the two titles rather than choosing one.  Of course, you can be like Loverman and me and keep this to yourselves rather than offering it to company.  I won’t tell.

Creamy Mac and Cheese for Company (this version of recipe from Taste of Home)

Ingredients

  • 1 package (7 ounces) elbow macaroni (Does macaroni come in 7oz packages?  Really?  Anyway, I used 8oz. corn rigatoni) 
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free equivalent)
  • 2 cups milk (I used skim)
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, cubed (it doesn’t really need to be cubed, just divided into small bits so it will melt easily)
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (I accidentally used this much dried parsley; remember you should use a ratio of 1:3 dried:fresh – 2T was too much dried)

Directions

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Reduce heat; add cheeses, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.  (I did all that in this order: cheddar, pepper, salt, mustard, cream cheese.  I doubt that it matters, but I figured the cream cheese would make the sauce much thicker and wanted to add it last.  It did, indeed, make it much thicker – almost gluey, in fact.  Try not to think about the fact that this will soon be coating your arteries).  Drain macaroni; add to the cheese sauce and stir to coat.

Transfer to a greased shallow 3-qt. baking dish. Melt the remaining butter; toss with bread crumbs and parsley. Sprinkle over macaroni. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  (Then wait the longest 5 – 10 minutes ever for it to cool)  Yield: 6 – 8 servings.

Yeah, our stovetop needs a scrub-down.


Verdict: 4/5

This probably would have been a 4.5 if I had done the breaded topping properly.  Even if I had done it correctly, however, I’m not sure that it’s strictly necessary; with the combination of cream cheese and the spicy mustard, I was pleased with how the cheese sauce alone tasted.  This was pretty simple in terms of ingredients and execution, but the flavors actually turn out somewhat complex – not as complex as some of the more unusual macs you’ve seen thus far, but for a mac with only two relatively pedestrian cheeses and no protein, not bad.  I really think cream cheese is not celebrated as much as it could be: I love its mild tanginess, a sort of salty-sweetness, and just how, well, creamy it is.  Although this contains spicy mustard, I would definitely not call it a spicy recipe; rather, the mustard offers more flavor than heat.  If, unlike me, you are a fan of spice, I would add a bit more of the spicy mustard – or even use a mustard spicier than spicy brown mustard.  Loverman felt it needed – what else? – chicken.  I don’t.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

 

Have any feedback for me?  I’d love to hear it!  E-mail me at weeklymac*AT*yahoo*DOT*com, leave me a comment here, or message me/post on my wall on Facebook.

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2 Comments on “Recipe 20: Creamy Mac and Cheese for Company (hybrid title)”

  1. “I can hear you wondering aloud (I have awesome hearing like that)” LOL!

    Cream cheese does sound like a delicious—and creamy!–addition to mac ‘n’ cheese.

    The ounce thing in recipes always bugs me, because it never, ever seems to match the boxes of pasta I have. I think my vegan mac ‘n’ cheese calls for 7 oz. too (WTF?) but our boxes are 13 oz.

    Your local grocery is offering generic brand GF pastas?! This can only be the amazing Wegmans, right?

    • Lex says:

      It is, indeed, “the amazing Wegmans!” In my opinion, they offer the biggest GF selection in terms of a “normal” grocery store (i.e. not a natural food store or food co-op), especially their flagship store in Pittsford (that is the one I told you and David about that has, among other things, a small restaurant, a huge food bar, a tea bar, a respectable selection of organic produce, a small Godiva Chocolate stand, etc.).

      Other local grocery stores carry brand-name GF pastas – a few of the mom-and-pop local groceries even carry pasta from a local GF bakery – but Wegmans is the main chain store that is currently offering their own brand! Although later this year or 2013 (I forget which) we are getting our first Trader Joe’s, so we’ll see how that goes.

      Locally, I can get pasta in 8oz, 12oz, or 16oz – that’s it. Well, there are also boxes of Annie’s Homegrown Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese (the gluten-free version of The Blue Box), which I think is 7oz or some other “odd” measurement.


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