Every family seems to have their own method for creating macaroni and cheese. Some people make it from a box, a few microwave it in a cup (including my 7 year old son), and many cook it from scratch. My mom was a "make-it-from-scratch" kinda gal. Although she never used a specific recipe for her delicious macaroni and cheese, I assisted her enough times as a child that I was able to learn the techniques and now am able to create my own version.
The "Macaroni and Cheese" that I have developed gives respect to my mom's recipe but also pleases my children. There is nothing worse than making a big batch of homemade macaroni and cheese only to have the kids whine for the kind from the box.
My recipe includes two special ingredients that I discovered out of necessity, Cheese Whiz and Ritz Crackers (judge me if you must). My mom always used a chunk of Velveeta cheese in her sauce, but I never seemed to have any around and, until I moved to Texas, I could never find it in the grocery store (Texans love their Velveeta for a dip called queso so it is prominantly displayed in the markets down here). My fridge, however, always does seem to have a half-filled jar of Cheese Whiz which my husband enjoys on his toast for breakfast. It turns out that Cheese Whiz adds the perfect creaminess to the sauce and balances the flavor of the cheddar nicely. Another thing my mom did was sprinkle bread crumbs on the top of her macaroni and cheese casserole, but once when I was out of bread crumbs I crushed up Ritz, mixed the crumbs with a little melted butter, and sprinkled that on top. The kids went wild.
Now, I must admit, my family occasionally does eat macaroni and cheese from a box, but they love my homemade "Macaroni and Cheese" just as well if not more. In fact, today I said "I love you" to my son and he countered with, "I love your mac & cheese, Mom!" Nice!
Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
12 ounces elbow macaroni (sometimes I go a little crazy and use shells or bow ties)
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus 1 Tablespoon salt for boiling water)
1/2 cup butter (use 1/4 cup for cheese sauce, and 1/4 cup for cracker crumb topping)
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
2 1/2 cups milk (whole milk is great but 1% works fine too)
12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup Cheese Whiz
24 Ritz crackers, crushed
1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Preheat over to 350 degrees.
- Lightly butter or spray a 9 x 13 pan or your favorite large casserole.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 Tablespoon of salt and macaroni. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain macaroni well.
- Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large heavy bottomed pot. Add flour, salt, pepper, and dry mustard powder. Whisk together for about a minute. Slowly add milk while whisking. Cook over medium-heat until sauce is slightly thickened (about 5 minutes). Remove white sauce from heat and add cheddar cheese and Cheese Whiz. Gently stir until all cheese is melted.
- Add boiled macaroni to cheese sauce and stir to combine.
- Place mixture into casserole dish.
- Crush Ritz crackers in a zip-lock bag. Add 1/4 cup melted butter to zip-lock back and gently shake until all Ritz crumbs are coated with butter.
- Cover top of macaroni and cheese mixture with buttery Ritz crumbs. Sprinkle with paprika.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until top is slightly browned and edges are bubbly.