Comfort foods

   We all have them:  Comfort foods. They may calm us down, relax us, remind us of home, make us happy; Foods that make us literally lick the plate.  For me it has to be my all time favorite, mac and cheese.  Not the kind that is prepackaged, I am speaking of the homemade stuff.  The kind that is baked in the oven till bubbly, gooey, and wonderfully thick and cheesy.  It is extra cheesy and covered with a crunchy topping made from a mixture of panko, herbs, and cheese.  My recipe follows and I hope it becomes a favorite for you too.  But I want to know this: What foods comforts you? What do you my readers like to fill their tummies with after a day that needs comforting?  Please comment below and let me know!

My Mac & Cheese print

  • 1 lb rigatoni cooked and drained
  • 5 TBSP butter
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar shredded
  • 8 oz sharp white cheddar shredded
  • 4 TBSP flour
  • 4 cups 2% milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4-6 twists of the pepper grinder or 1/2 tsp pre-ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (if you have fresh it is better if so use 1 TBSP fresh)
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter 13x9x2 pan.
  2. In saucepan melt butter. Once melted remove 1 TBSP butter and mix together with panko, 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, and thyme. Set aside.
  3. Add flour to remaining butter in saucepan and cook (let it start to bubble then start timing) over medium heat for 1 minute. 
  4. Add milk gradually whisking until rue is incorporated. Heat to boiling over medium heat whisking to prevent milk from scorching. Once milk/rue mixture starts to thicken cook to 2 minutes. Mixture should coat the back of a spoon and not run together when your finger is dredged through the center. (Use 2% for this 1% or skim really doesn’t do it for me in this recipe, it is not as rich and does not get as thick)
  5. Finally add remaining cheeses to mixture. Don’t overwhelm it, add the cheese in 3 additions, allowing each addition of cheese to melt before adding the next one. Stir in mustard powder and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Mix cooked pasta with sauce and pour into 13x9x2 prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes sprinkle top with panko topping and bake until browned.
I hope this will be added to my readers repertoire of comforting dishes. In the meantime let me know what it is you reach for when needing a little comfort from the kitchen.
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