I could eat casseroles any given day.
Certainly, there’s nothing more comforting—especially during these cold winter days—than a rich casserole dish. Casseroles, not to be confused with stews or guisos, refer to the method of cooking and the cookware (casserole pan) used to prepare and serve this dish.
In just one bite, casseroles take me back in time. they satisfy both your soul and body. When I was growing up, they would be the “save-the-night” dish. Not only are they super easy to make, they yield generously and they are also inexpensive meals to prepare.
Prepare them ahead of time, bring them to work or school or simply use them to have dinner ready in minutes—just the amount of time it’ll take you to heat it up and set the table. Besides, kids love casseroles and I find them to be a great way to get them to eat vegetables.
Shepherd’s pie*, potatoes au gratin; spinach-béchamel lasagna*, and macaroni and cheese are among some of my favorite casseroles. Which reminds me…not too long ago, a popular food magazine asked on Twitter: What would be the one dish you would make for the President of the United States? And I replied, Macaroni and cheese! He loves comfort food! But I had no idea he did, that was literally my intuition replying. Then a few days later I found out that, indeed, the POTUS loves comfort food and that mac and cheese is one of his favorite guilty pleasures!
So here’s my Mac and Cheese Casserole recipe. Yes, the one I’d prepare for the POTUS, and maybe one day I will.
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BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE CASSEROLE
Yields: 6 Servings
3 cups organic milk (or 2 cups milk, 1 cup cream)
6 TBSP unsalted butter or ghee*, divided
1 TSP Dijon mustard
¼ cup all-purpose flour*
pinch nutmeg, or more to taste
½ TSP paprika o pimentón español, or more to taste
½ lb. extra sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ lb. Muenster cheese, shredded
¼ lb. Provolone cheese, shredded
¼ lb. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1 lb. elbow macaroni*, cooked in salted water, al dente, do not overcook
1 cup fresh bread crumbs, or panko bread crumbs
½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded, for topping
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Lightly butter a 2-qt. casserole dish.
- In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, heat the milk until small bubbles form around the edges. Set aside.
- In a separate pan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter; whisk in the flour and the mustard. Reduce the heat to low. Keep whisking making sure it’s lump-free, but without browning, about 2 minutes.
- Gradually, stir in the milk, nutmeg, and paprika. Raise the heat to medium and let it come to a soft boil.
- Remove from the heat, add the cheeses, combine and stir until cheeses are melted. Season to taste. Fold in the macaroni.
- Melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan and toss the bread crumbs, stir well to combine.
- Spread the macaroni and cheese evenly in the prepared casserole dish. Top with the parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Serve with a chilled glass of crispy, buttery Chardonnay.
Got leftovers? Save them for crispy fried macaroni and cheese with hot sauce, or to recycle as a ham frittata.
*Shepherd’s pie and beef lasagna freeze very well.
*Make it gluten free just by buying elbow macaroni gluten free pasta.
*For richer, nuttier flavor.
*If making it gluten free, use quinoa flour instead.
Learn more about Fernanda Beccaglia.