You can probably see a basic theme in most of my favorite dishes… they regularly contain cheese. I guess it’s because we just love cheese. This recipe is no exception. I think my love of macaroni and cheese began as a child when my parents would make me the blue boxed variety after I begged and begged.
Over the years, I have tried more and more to get away from prepackaged products and to make more homemade items. I have learned that the benefits of doing so are two-fold. First, they taste better! Second, you can generally pronounce the ingredient listing with a little more ease. My kids still get the boxed version on occasion, but they have definitely been spoiled with this homemade mac and cheese, and prefer the homemade version.
This mac is great because it is so versatile. You can add meat if you prefer. My family likes bacon in their mac and cheese. You can use sharp cheddar, which we always do, or you can use mild cheddar if you prefer. You can add some parmesan cheese for some variety. Sometimes peppers and onions are a nice flavorful addition as well. And for some crunch, top it off with a breadcrumb and butter mixture. I will usually do some combination of the above depending on the day.
We love this recipe as a side dish on a hot summer day with some grilled hot dogs or hamburgers. It is also great on a cold winter day as a meal by itself as the ultimate comfort food. It really is so versatile, and it is a great recipe to have in your recipe box. Tell me, what is your ultimate comfort food? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Lindsay’s Mac and Cheese
1 lb small, cooked macaroni, such as elbows or shells
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
3 cups milk
1 cup chopped onion and ¾ cup chopped bell pepper (optional)
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (optional)
If desired, sauté peppers and onions together in butter until cooked to your liking. I like them cooked well done, which can take a while. Add the flour and whisk until well incorporated and there are no lumps. Slowly add the milk while stirring constantly. Continue cooking over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Once the sauce is thickened, lower the heat to low and add the cheeses, reserving about a cup of the cheddar. Stir until the cheddar is melted. Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir it up until well mixed. Dump the mac and cheese mixture into a 13 x 9 baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar. Then, if desired, sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until bubbling and slightly golden on top. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, and enjoy!