Saturday, January 23, 2010

Not Your Average Macaroni and Cheese

For those of you who love macaroni and cheese...get ready! This is it! Uber macaroni and cheese on steroids! Three different kinds of cheese, a bechamel sauce, rigatoni noodles, sigh, need I say more? When this dish comes out of the oven in all of it's golden, crusty brown, cheesy gloriousness (is that a word?) just stand back and gasp! I promise you, if your team doesn't win the Super Bowl, you can drown your sorrows in this dish! To make it even more perfect you can prepare it a day ahead and bake it on the day.

Uber Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (use good quality)
1 lb. Mozzarella Cheese, shredded (use good quality)
3 cups whole milk
7 Tbls. unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
*2 or more tsps. Tabasco sauce (or similar hot sauce)
1/3 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 lb. rigatoni noodles (the ribbed kind - not smooth)
*3/4 tsp. chili powder
3/4 cup whole milk

* This is not spicy or hot. The Tabasco and chili powder enhance the cheddar flavor without adding heat.

Cook rigatoni in boiling, lightly salted water until al dente (5-6 minutes). Thoroughly drain in colander.

Mix the shredded cheddar and mozzarella together in a large mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until near boiling (don't boil). Take it off the heat. Melt butter in a large, heavy pot. When foam subsides, remove from heat, add flour, and whisk until combined. Return to medium low heat, simmer for 2-3 minutes, whisking constantly to cook, but not brown, the flour. Gradually pour in hot milk, and continue whisking until mixture is smooth and thick - about 4 - 5 minutes. Take off heat and add parmesan or romano. Whisk until smooth. Add Tabasco and pepper and blend. Add drained rigatoni, and with a rubber spatula, fold into the bechamel, coating all the noodles.

Layer half of the noodle mixture in a buttered 9 x 13 baking dish. Top with half the cheese mixture. Press down with rubber spatula. Cover with remaining noodle mixture and top with rest of cheese mixture. Press down. Sprinkle the chili powder evenly over the top. If not using now, let cool then cover tightly with Saran wrap and refrigerate.

Take out of refrigerator 1 hour before baking.

When ready to bake - preheat oven to 375*. Drizzle the 3/4 cup milk over the top of the casserole. Bake approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours. The dish should be bubbling and rusty brown on top. Check for doneness by inserting a knife into the center of the dish - it should come out hot to the touch. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly cover with foil for part of the cooking time.

Now, take your bubbling, cheesy, masterpiece out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Take your first bite...and enjoy the ultimate in comfort food.

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