Messy, Amazing Mac & Cheese :: simple thanksgiving

…  a messy kitchen is a happy kitchen and this kitchen is delirious. ~unknown

Hi! It’s Ronne. You know, last week Susie wrote about the joy of messy Mondays.  So, I’m embracing my own beautiful mess in her honor, and celebrating fall with a little comfort food. With the weather getting cooler and the glorious rain we just got in Texas, creamy mac & cheese is a warm friendly hug to my soul. My recipe does make a mess of the kitchen, but the smile in my belly is well worth the saucepans in the sink.

So, it’s not really my mac & cheese. The recipe belongs to Ina Garten (with a few small moments of improvisation from yours truly). I’m glad she felt inclined to share it with the world, because my kitchen table has been changed for the better because of it. In the past month, I’ve made it five times. I shared one pan with a brand new family and another pan with my son, who sent out a woeful SOS when his sweet wife went out of town for a few days. Another batch was cooked up to put some smiles on kids’ faces, and I even served it at a fancy dinner for the board members of a nonprofit. Oh, that fifth pan? Yes, it stayed right here at home for my hubby and me to enjoy.

Enjoy the recipe. Share it with family and friends. Avoid the temptation to overfill the casserole dish (or there will be a brand new messy to add to your Monday). But don’t avoid the temptation to take one more helping. Your kitchen table will be changed for the better too.

Messy Amazing Mac & Cheese

1 16-oz box elbow macaroni or cavatappi (corkscrew shaped noodles that really let that cheesy goodness cling) * 1 quart half-and-half ( Ina’s recipe says ‘milk’ I smile and reach for milk’s richer sister) * 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter * ½ cup all-purpose flour  * 4 cups Gruyere cheese (you can use Swiss if you’d like – the flavor is a bit milder, but it’s less expensive) * 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese * 1 t. freshly grated nutmeg (if you don’t yet grate nutmeg yourself, you’ll want to give it a try – it’s so much better) * 3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced * 1 cup classic breadcrumbs * ¼ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375.

In a pasta pot or large saucepan, cook pasta until tender in boiling water. Remember to salt the water generously (‘salty like the sea’ is the rule). Drain and return to pasta pot. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat half-and-half over medium heat until hot but not boiling. In a larger saucepan, melt ½ cup butter and whisk in flour until well-blended. Add nutmeg and blend well. Add cheese and stir until all cheese has melted. Pour cheese mixture over pasta and stir thoroughly. Transfer mac & cheese into a greased casserole dish.
Toss tomato slices in breadcrumbs and place on top of mac & cheese. Gently drizzle melted butter over tomatoes.  Makes 8-10 generous portions.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Serve large portions on pretty plates, and fall in love.


written by ronne

find out about :: 31 days of simple thanksgiving

And hey, if you’d like to keep in touch, read up about the ‘Good News’ Newsletter every Friday.