I was looking for something different to try this week and that’s when a new message popped up. My brother Nate came through out of the blue with a mac and cheese recipe for me.
It turned out that the gift of a new, fun recipe just when I needed it came about because he had bought his wife Monique a birthday present of the delightful-sounding book “Bread, Toast, Crumbs” by Alexandra Stafford. BTW, Happy Birthday, Monique!
While I just used the image my brother sent me for this post, it definitely sounds like the type of book that belongs in my kitchen, as I love carbs and crumbs. My test with mac and cheese was mostly positive, if not perfect.
Despite my pronounced love for crumbs, I must have accidentally added more than the recipe, or perhaps because there was a note in the text to another page for homemade crumbs, I ended up with an over-abundance. Don’t get me wrong, the crumbs *tasted* great, but they were a bit overwhelming versus the mac and cheese.
But for that error, I only blame myself and my lack of owning the book.
I also failed to purchase more parchment paper after using it up for last week’s ratatouille, which may have contributed to a drier and darker mac and cheese, though the latter didn’t bother me at all and the former also probably an error I made in adding too much of the mac, defying instructions.
If you’re sensing a theme, it’s that in cooking there’s always a balance between trusting your gut and trusting the expert recipe; and, in this case, I erred toward my own opinions and judgment. But I won’t disavow my gut altogether. There’s some logic in what works for my palate and some room for error in how an item cooks in my oven, but this time, not so much.
Even though my attempt didn’t turn out perfectly, I had no problem eating it as leftovers throughout the week, and I’m adding the book to my cart right now.
Here’s what I did (or, more accurately, what I should have done):
- 12 oz. elbow macaroni (I used 16 to use up the whole box, but in hindsight, it would’ve been better with less)
- 1 stick (8 T.) unsalted butter, divided
- ¼ c. all-purpose flour
- 2 c. whole milk
- 2 c. store-bought bread crumbs (The recipe called for 3, but also apparently how to make them homemade. Since 3 c. was too much, I’d go to 2 c. but I left all else for the crumb mix the same as the recipe called for, because delicious flavor!)
- ½ c. fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used much more because I love garlic, but add to your tastes)
- 5 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, diced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 425 degrees, and bring a large pot of water (salted if desired) to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook to al dente for 5 minutes. Drain but don’t rinse, and set aside.
In the same large pot, melt half the butter over medium high heat. Add the flour, a little at a time, whisking constantly, and continue to stir for about a minute. Add the milk, and 2 c. water, continuing to whisk to ensure nothing is stuck to the bottom. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes (mine took longer than the recipe stated, closer to 30 than the 20 in the recipe) until the mixture is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add more salt or pepper to taste.
In a medium bowl, melt the remaining butter. Then, add the bread crumbs, parsley, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In the pot with the sauce, add the Parmesan cheese (I left a little for topping but it’s optional), and then add in the macaroni. Stir until cheese is melted and mac is coated.
Line the bottom of a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper (optional but recommended), and spread the mac mixture on top. Add the mozzarella cubes evenly throughout, and then top with the bread crumb mixture, and any leftover Parmesan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the crumbs are golden and the mac mixture is bubbling. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and enjoy!
My delightful brother sent the important context for the missing page with the note on bread crumbs. Mystery solved!