Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mom's Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This is, was, and will always be a staple at every family holiday gathering. Amen.

This was one of my mom's best recipes ever and most requested dishes for family get togethers. I have no idea where the recipe came from, but I do know it's awesome! When I was younger, we'd always take 2 big casserole dishes of this to the family Thanksgiving get together at my grandmother's because my uncle (my mom's younger brother) and his kids could easily polish off half of one dish by themselves leaving hardly any for the rest of the family! Every once in awhile, I make it "just cuz"....just 'cuz I've got a hankering for it! Besides that, the husband loves it and it's SOOOOOOOOOOO good warmed up later or the next day.

It's best to use a clear glass baking dish for this, but if you don't have one, don't sweat it. The size of baking dish will determine how much macaroni you'll need, but sometimes the amount of macaroni you've cooked determines the size dish you'll need. Unfortunately, I've never measured the ingredients, so you'll have to forgive me for that.

Here we go! You'll need: a baking dish of your choice, elbow ronis, cheddar cheese (grated), a little bit of milk, BUTTER, and salt. Don't forget the butter!

In a large pot, bring salted water to boil. Pour in 6-8 (or more) CUPS of dry ronis and cook until slightly soft (al dente) as they'll bake a bit more in the oven. Or, you could be like me and just pour them in until you think you have enough. Drain & rinse ronis. When thoroughly rinsed and drained, and add about a tablespoon of olive oil to them to keep from sticking together and stir.

Decide what size baking dish you'll need. Take a stick of butter (margarine will work, too) and peel off half the wrapper. Holding onto the wrapped end and using the unwrapped end like a brush, liberally butter the bottom, corners, and sides of your baking dish.

Cover the bottom of your dish with a layer of ronis. Sprinkle salt over the top. Dot with butter. (Cut a pat of butter off the stick, then cut into fourths to make dots.)

Sprinkle grated cheese over the top. (Liberally)

Repeat layers finishing with cheese on top.

Carefully pour milk (anything from skim to whole milk works) over the top of the dish until it comes about 1/8"-1/4" up the side of the dish. Don't wait to stop pouring until you notice the milk level rising. Stop periodically and let the milk settle to the bottom before adding more. If you aren't using a see-through dish, take a knife and stick it down the side of the dish and gently pull back on the ronis until you can see the milk level. Too little milk and it'll be too dry. Too much milk and it won't all cook out before the top burns. It's a delicate balance.

Here's mine ready to go into the oven.

Bake at 350º on the middle rack in your oven until the milk has evaporated, everything's bubbling, and the top is lightly browned. Usually it's about 30-45 mins. If you're in a hurry, you can bake it at 425º, but keep an eye on it so that it doesn't get too brown on top and bottom. You can also assemble the night before, leave out the milk, and store covered in the refrigerator. Before popping it in the oven, add the milk and bake as normal.

Enjoy and don't blame me for the added pounds!