Super creamy and gloriously cheesy, this classic baked mac and cheese boasts a golden bubbling lid with ooey gooey goodness underneath.
8ouncesmacaroni or other medium tubular pasta (like penne or conchiglie)* (1/2 pound or about 1 and 3/4 cups)
1/4teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
1/8teaspoonsmoked paprika(plus more for sprinkling on top)
2 1/2cups2% milk
3cupsshredded medium cheddar cheese(approx. 12 ounces) **
Boil the pasta JUST until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and return to the pan you boiled it in. Set aside. (Mix in a little butter to keep the noodles from sticking if it's going to be awhile before you make the sauce)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter. When the butter has melted, add the flour, salt, dry mustard, pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika. With a wooden spoon or whisk, stir constantly for three minutes.
Add the milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Continue to stir constantly until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5-8 minutes.
Remove from heat and add 2 cups of the cheese, stirring until melted. You'll reserve the last cup of cheese for topping. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss gently until all of the pasta is coated.
Add half the pasta to a two-quart casserole dish (I like a tall 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish). Sprinkle on half the cheese. Add the rest of the pasta. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, then dust lightly with the smoked paprika.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the mac and cheese is bubbling and browning on top.
Serve, topping individual servings with parsley or cooked, chopped bacon if desired.
Add cooked and crumbled bacon to the top of individual servings (or the whole thing if your whole clan is carnivorous).
Please resist adding more pasta and cheese!
*Please resist the urge to add more pasta to stretch the recipe. You need a lot of sauce with that pasta because the pasta soaks so much and it otherwise cooks down. Over-dry mac and cheese is such a disappointment - don't do it!**Also resist the urge to add more cheese to the sauce. This can do weird things. Sprinkle more in between and on top if you must have more cheese.
When you make this recipe ahead of time, please know the result may be a tad more dry. Still delicious! But a little less saucy. I recommend assembling it up to the point of baking, refrigerating, then, before baking, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Then proceed with baking.Adapted from the Bev's Macaroni and Cheese recipe on Food.com