Mac and Cheese for Halloween

mac-and-cheese-hc-4 Since the Kraft Company put it in a box in 1937 every American kid grew up with macaroni and cheese.  There can be no doubt that its ultimate origins are Italian, as one finds macaroni and cheese recipes from the late thirteenth century in southern Italy.  But the American macaroni and cheese has two main lines of ancestry claimed.  In the first, it is thought that macaroni and cheese was a casserole that had its beginnings at a New England church supper.  In southeastern Connecticut it was known long ago as macaroni pudding.  In the second, and more famous story, and more than likely the original story, it is said that the classic American macaroni and cheese returned with Thomas Jefferson to Virginia after his sojourn in Italy.  Jefferson had brought back a pasta machine from Italy.  His daughter Mary Randolph became the hostess of his house after Jefferson’s wife died and she is credited with inventing the dish using macaroni and Parmesan cheese.  Later, the Parmesan was replaced with cheddar cheese.  Anyway, that’s one story.  It is more likely that Jefferson encountered the dish in Italy and brought back the recipe.  Although there are many different recipes, there really don’t need to be because it is in principal just macaroni and melted cheese in white sauce.  I still find a plate of macaroni and cheese a satisfying dish.  A macaroni and cheese should be simple, true, and un-gussied and this recipe will be a lot better than what comes out of a package.  Why isn’t it orange?  Well, I don’t believe in using food coloring.  Some cooks add bread crumbs to the top of the casserole and I like that au gratin finish too.  The key to this dish is the cheese, so it will be wise to choose a high quality Cheddar cheese such as a Vermont Shelburne Farmstead cheddar.

Mac and Cheese
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Baked Pasta
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4 to 6
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • ½ garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3½ cups whole milk
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or any tubular macaroni
  • 1 pound mild or sharp aged white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the flour to form a roux, stirring for about 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the milk. Return to the heat and simmer, stirring, over low heat until smooth but still liquidy, about 15 minutes. Add the cheese, 1 cup or a handful at a time until it melts, stirring frequently, then add the mustard and salt and stir until the cheese has melted.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of abundantly salted water to a rolling boil, then cook the pasta until half cooked (harder than al dente; follow the package instructions). Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir and toss a bit. Transfer the macaroni to a buttered 10-inch diameter round casserole at least 3 inches deep or a 9-inch square one. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top and bake until the top begins to turns golden and the sauce is bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes, then serve.


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