easiest baked mac-and-cheese

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Easiest Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from The New York Times, 1/4/06

Moskin actually ends the article with two recipes, but I went with this first one because it had more milk, only (heh) a pound of cheese, and had the added intrigue of not requiring either the par-boiling of pasta or pre-simmering of the cheese sauce. Huzzah for fewer dishes! As it turned out, the second recipe will not be necessary as this one is just perfect for anyone looking for classic, baked, no-fuss mac and cheese.

Serve it with a g’normous green salad, in a feeble attempt at caloric balance, and wine, to remind yourself that you’re a grown-up.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (I skipped this)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I’m a big fan of Cabot extra-sharp, in the purple wrapper)
1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked.

1. Heat oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use one tablespoon butter to grease a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

2. In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together.* Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

3. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

* Next time, I will puree everything without the milk, and then add it in. I think that will put a finer grind on the cottage cheese, so no lumps remain.

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