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Creamy Mac & Cheese

August 24, 2009

With a secret ingredient! I had been craving macaroni and cheese for ages, but didn’t have any box kind around because alas, Dakota Growers Pasta is not available in NY. And all those homemade kind? They seemed kind of time-consuming and wasteful of expensive cheeses.

In elementary school, they used to serve us what I thought was the best mac ‘n’ cheese ever. The fat elbow noodles were pretty overcooked, and the creamy, thick cheese sauce was almost certainly more than half processed cheese (like velveeta). But it was so thick and creamy and delicious, I loved it.

And now? I’ve found the grown-up answer to that childhood treat. You don’t have to use a round ice-cream-type scoop to serve it unless you want to. : )

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese:

1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup flour
8 oz. package of neufchatel (1/3 less fat) cream cheese – use full-fat if you want
2 cups milk
shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
3 or so cups cooked elbow macaroni (boil 1 1/2 quarts water, add pasta, reduce heat slightly and lightly boil 5 minutes. Macaroni will be fully cooked, but not soft & squishy)

Melt butter in over medium-high heat in a 3 or 4 quart pot. When fully melted, add flour and stir until smooth. Cook for 1-2 minutes until bubbling. Add milk and and mustard and stir or whisk until smooth. Add cream cheese and cheddar and stir until smooth and cheeses are fully melted. Pour in drained macaroni. Salt & pepper to taste.

The sauce for this can get quite thick, so you might want to add more milk if you like your sauce a little thinner. I only added a few slices of sharp cheddar (maybe 2 oz. total), but the sharp taste of the dijon mixed with the cream cheese really added to the flavor. If you wanted, you could add tomatoes, zucchini, peas, onions, or any other number of vegetables. But really, it’s so delicious and decadent that I feel it would be so much better to serve them as a side dish, instead of ruining the integrity of the creamy, cheesy goodness.

Next time, I think I will add more shredded cheese, maybe even a blend of cheeses, like cheddar, jack, colby, and/or mozzarella. If you REALLY wanted to fancy it up, you could add gruyere, which is an expensive, but delicious and highly meltable French cheese that goes excellently with dijon mustard.

A thought just occured to me: a little tabasco sauce added to the mix and topped with tomatillo salsa verde and served with tortilla chips could quite possibly be amazing!

Anywho, it was a very delicious, not ridiculously high fat dish (yay low fat cream cheese!) that was extremely satisfying after a long day of hiking and swimming up at Lake Minnewaska. And now? Going for a drive! And possibly buying more yarn for funtimes knitting projects. I have vowed to learn how to do vertical stripes! We’ll see how that turns out.

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