Super creamy and gloriously cheesy, this classic baked mac and cheese boast a golden bubbling lid with ooey-gooey goodness underneath.
YIELD: 6 servings
8 ounces macaroni or another medium tubular pasta (like penne or conchiglie)* (1/2 pound or about 1 and 3/4 cups)
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika (plus more for sprinkling on top)
2 1/2 cups 2% milk
3 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese (approx. 12 ounces) **
Boil the pasta JUST until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and return to the pan you boiled it in. Set aside. (Mix in a little butter to keep the noodles from sticking if it's going to be a while before you make the sauce)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour, salt, dry mustard, pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon of smoked paprika. With a wooden spoon or whisk, stir constantly for three minutes.
Add the milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Continue to stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5-8 minutes.
Remove from heat and add 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted. You'll reserve the last cup of cheese for topping. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss gently until all of the pasta is coated.
Add half the pasta to a two-quart casserole dish (I like a tall 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish). Sprinkle on half the cheese. Add the rest of the pasta. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, then dust lightly with the smoked paprika.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the mac and cheese, is bubbling and browning on top.
Serve, topping individual servings with parsley or cooked, chopped bacon if desired.
I think the only problem I really had was being impatient. Paprika is one of my favorite addition to most meals and this mac and cheese probably wouldn’t have been as good without it. Personally, I avoid mac and cheese most of the time as it was ruined for me with those quick and easy stove packets but this recipe has restored my faith in humanity.