So I was having one of those Mondays earlier this week. You know – where you wake up and you don’t want to go to work, and everything goes wrong, and it’s all dreary outside. Probably didn’t help the cause that last Monday when I woke up it was 85 and sunny and I was in tropical paradise. So yes, it was just one of those days. So when it came time to make dinner that night, I decided Monday Mac n’ Cheese sounded just about right.
Boy did this dish hit the spot. It temporarily solved all my problems and made my day all bright and sunny again. This isn’t one of those fancy mac n’ cheese recipes. There are no shaved truffles, no fancy cheeses, and no lobster or other expensive ingredients swimming around the noodles. This is five simple ingredients, one-type of cheese, and sometimes that is all you need. While I will admit, the dressed up variations of this dish can be quite spectacular at times, but who has the time to make that on a Monday night.
This dish, however, is easy, simple, and only has five main ingredients – macaroni, Cheddar, milk, butter, and flour. Not quite as easy as Easy Mac, but quick enough for a Monday night dinner and so much more delicious! Spice it up a bit with some red pepper flakes or if you are a bit strange like me, top it off with some sweet peas and you are good to go! I know, I know – why would I ruin such a great dish by adding peas to it? I’m telling you, they go well together! The peas add a touch of sweetness to the savory dish and it’s crisp and clean texture cuts the heaviness in the cheese. Give it a try! If you don’t like it, it won’t ruin the dish.
For the Easy Mac n’ Cheese Recipe
Lou & Esi Original Recipe
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 3-4 servings
- 1/2 lb (8 oz) elbow macaroni (half a box)
- 2 cups milk (whole milk will make it creamier, but I used low-fat)
- 1 lb (16 oz) Cheddar cheese; shredded
- t tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 cup Japanese Panko bread flakes (optional; can use bread crumbs of your choice or extra 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the macaroni. When the water boils, add the macaroni and cook for 7-8 minutes, until al dente. Drain and set aside.
While the macaroni is cooking, grate your Cheddar cheese. You can buy pre-shredded Cheddar cheese, but I always prefer to buy the blocks of cheese and grate myself.
In a large, deep pot or skillet, meat the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, whisking constantly to remove lumps. You want a smooth, thick, and creamy texture. (Lumps will make your final dish grainy and not creamy) Add the milk and whisk it into the butter and flour mixture. Continue to whisk vigorously and cook until the mixture is smooth. Add in the Cheddar cheese and stir until all melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the red-pepper flakes if using.
Add the cooked macaroni and fold into the cheese mixture. Scrape the macaroni into a large baking dish and sprinkle evenly with the Panko bread flakes. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the dish is hot and bubbly and the crust is golden and crispy.
To serve, scatter with toppings of your choice such as green peas, or serve as is!