Mac and Cheese, the Comfort Food

No matter how young or old you are, everyone cherishes comfort food. What is “comfort food”, you ask? This is classic home-cooked food that is prepared and enjoyed regularly throughout the year. It is usually the food most requested by the family.

In most homes there are different favorites for each season. Springtime might bring to mind roasted herb-crusted chicken, steamed baby peas and carrots and strawberry pie. Bar-b-q chicken, grilled hamburgers, and potato salad make us savor the thoughts of summer picnics in the park.

September and back-to-school brings a new order to cooking. Autumn craves harvest classics, like roasted vegetables, candied carrots, butternut squash soup and pumpkin or apple pie for dessert. Cold winters are filled with rustic beef stew, hot, steamy soups, and a variety of casseroles with warm crispy bread fresh from the oven.

It is the general feeling of a lovingly cooked meal that creates fond memories of home cooked comfort food. There is as much fun in preparing a treasured recipe as in eating the finished product.

As a ’round the year classic, nothing says comfort food like macaroni and cheese. And I’m not referring to the kind you find in a box! If you haven’t eaten homemade macaroni and cheese you are in for a real treat. This easy meal can be dressed up for company by mixing in gourmet cheeses or made heartier by adding cooked chicken and peas. But for the real deal try this:

Homemade Mac & Cheese

1 pound  elbow or other medium size pasta
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
(a mix of sharp and mild cheeses is best)
1/2 cup butter
5 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, optional
4 cups of milk

Follow package directions when cooking the pasta. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and seasonings. In an oven-safe large pot, add butter, melting it on low. Next, stir in the flour mixture. Pour in the milk, stirring constantly. Add the cheese and cook over low heat until the cheese is melted. Add in pasta and stir until completely coated. Bake in oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  For a nice crisp topping turn oven to a low broil for 3-5 minutes, but watch carefully.

Serves 8-10

To add a special topping, crumble 12-16 round butter crackers and sprinkle over the top before baking.

Serve with a crisp green salad and you are ready for homemade comfort food goodness!