A few years ago I became obsessed with finding the perfect mac & cheese recipe. This might sound crazy, but my college cafeteria had the most amazing mac & cheese I had ever tasted. It was rich, creamy and cheesy and when I saw it on the menu I would literally squeal with anticipation. And they always served it with stewed tomatoes, which just made me even happier.
Bubbly, cheesy goodness:
My quest for the perfect mac & cheese took years and resulted in a lot of heartache. I tried countless variations, different kinds of cheese, different preparations and none satisfied me. Finally I cracked open the bible for all home cooks - The Joy of Cooking - and lo and behold, I found the perfect recipe. It's the only one I'll make anymore because nothing else can compare.
An inside shot:
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Courtesy of The Joy of Cooking
2 cups (8 ounces) elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter, divided plus extra for greasing pan
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 onion, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
Bring 6 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to rolling boil in a large pot. Add macaroni and cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and put in large bowl.
Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Stir in onion, bay leaf and paprika. Simmer gently, stirring often, 15 minutes. Remove from heat and remove bay leaf. Stir in 2 cups of cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in macaroni.
Pour half of mixture into greased, 1 1/2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with half of remaining cheese. Top with remaining macaroni and then remaining cheese.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and toss to coat. Sprinkle buttered crumbs over top of macaroni.
Bake at 350 degrees until bread crumbs are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.