Homemade Mac ‘n cheese. It’s simply the best — creamy, savory, warm and filling, and oh so cheesy. What’s not to love? And the types of Mac ‘n cheese? The question is what CAN’T you do to Mac ‘n cheese?
Lobster mac at the The Loft is famous locally, with an adoring fan following and a thumbs up from the Phantom Gourmet. Pinterest abounds with mac ‘n cheese twists featuring pumpkin, buffalo chicken, and even avocado (yum!). And any Top Chef fan will remember when contestant Dave Martin shocked and delighted the uptight judges with a classy truffle version.
Suffice it to say there is no end to the delights that Mac n cheese can bring. While I’m excited to explore some of the above, this time I went simple and quick with ingredients that I – and likely you – already have on hand. Any variety of hard cheese, ham, broccoli, milk, egg, and pasta.
I rely on a tried and true recipe for my mac ‘n cheese, my mom’s long-standing no-fuss mac n cheese recipe,which I lightened up. It was, in fact, one of my very first blog posts! It’s truly simple, no messing around with a roux or cheese sauce. Just layer the ingredients and pop it in the oven! The cheese, milk and egg blend together during baking to make a creamy sauce that goes all around and inside the pasta for cheesy goodness in every bite.
To truly simplify things, buy shredded cheese, broccoli florets (which you’d only need to halve), and a couple of 1/4-inch thick slices of deli ham. Then all you need to do is cook the pasta, and layer the ingredients. It’s in the oven for an hour, which will give you time to muss up your hair and wipe some flour on your pants so everyone will think you worked really hard
You can ramp up the nutritional value with whole grain pasta, and decrease the fat by using some reduced fat cheese. It’s all good
Prep time: 15 minutes — Cook time: 1 hour
2 cups (dry) casserole elbow macaroni (aka large elbows)
2 cups broccoli florets, cut in half
~ 1/2 pound deli ham (sliced thick), cut into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces shredded cheese, any hard cheese variety (I used sharp cheddar and Monterey jack. Reduced fat cheeses work well also)
1 and 1/4 c. lowfat milk (more, up to 1 and 1/2 cups if you increase the any of the above ingredients)
1 whole egg plus one egg white
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare 2-quart casserole dish with spray oil.
1) Cook pasta according to package directions. Strain in colander, then rinse for a few seconds under cool water to prevent sticking. Drain thoroughly.
2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the noodles, ham, and broccoli, stirring until everything is evenly distributed. Layer half of the pasta mixture in the casserole. Sprinkle half the cheese evenly over that. Layer the rest of the pasta mixture next. Then, sprinkle the remaining cheese.
3) Whisk together the milk and eggs. Pour over the entire top of the casserole. Finally, I recommend a few shakes/grinds of pepper across the top, and salt if you desire.
4) Cover with lid or aluminum foil and bake for about an hour. The edges will be beginning to brown, and the sauce will be bubbly. Let set for 10 minutes before serving.