A simple dish of pasta and creamy cheese, with a few added ingredients, often claims the title of our favorite comfort food. Mac ‘n’ cheese can be as easy and simple, or as complex and tantalizing, as you want it to be, and many a child has thrived on a steady diet of the hot casserole.
My version of the classic is made in the microwave, and while it’s good, it has never compared to the steaming casserole of bubbling goodness that my mother brought to the table. I’ve lost track of the number of recipes I have for macaroni and cheese, from classic baked dishes, including my mom’s version and my sister’s hand-me-down (from her mother-in-law) recipe, to innovative slow-cooker versions.
When it comes to mac ‘n’ cheese, my colleagues didn’t want to be left out, so we organized an office-wide Mac ‘N’ Cheese Cookoff. Seven intrepid cooks entered the fray, and more than 30 people taste tested the entries and cast votes in four categories. My Low-Fat Macaroni and Cheese took top honors in the Healthiest category; J.P. Barker’s Mac & Cheese Corn Casserole was the Cheesiest; Brenda Kipp’s Mom’s Mac & Cheese was voted the Most Traditional; and Christian Williams’ Mexican Mac ‘n’ Queso claimed the title of Most Unusual.
Since all the entries were delicious, it didn’t take long for the tastetesters to clear out each and every dish in yet another successful cook-off.
We hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we did.
Senior Associate Editor Jean Teller keeps tri-colored pasta in the cupboard and plenty of cheddar cheese in the fridge to combat any mac ‘n’ cheese cravings.
Mexican Mac ‘n’ Queso
Submitted by Christian Williams, Associate Editor, Collectibles Group
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1 can (12 ounces) condensed milk, divided
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Half a green bell pepper, diced
Half a red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups grated pepper jack cheese
Boil 2 quarts of water and add macaroni; cook macaroni just short of being really soft. While macaroni is cooking, mix eggs, 1 cup condensed milk, Tabasco, salt and pepper in small bowl; set aside. Sauté green and red peppers and garlic in bit of olive oil; set aside.
After draining macaroni, add butter and toss until butter melts. Then, slowly add egg mixture and grated cheese, mixing until cheese melts. Continue process until all egg mixture and grated cheese have been added, and add remaining condensed milk. After stirring some more, add peppers and garlic and mix well. Warm everything on low heat for about 5 minutes; serve.
Low-Fat Macaroni and Cheese
Submitted by Jean Teller, Senior Associate Editor, Grit
Recipe Source: From Everyday Health.com/Reproduced with permission from "ADA Cookbooks"© American Diabetes Association ®
3/4 cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup low-fat cheddar cheese (I used sharp)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 dash salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fine, dry bread crumbs
1 pound elbow macaroni or other pasta
Heat oven to 350°F. In saucepan, heat milk over low heat. Add cheeses until they melt, stirring constantly.
Stir in nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove cheese sauce from heat. Add cooked pasta to cheese sauce and mix well.
Pour mixture into 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until bubbly and top is browned.
Note: The cottage cheese never completely melted. I added another 1/4 cup evaporated milk and a large splash of skim milk, because the first batch turned out a bit too dry for my taste. Next time I make it, I might add a bit more cottage cheese, as well.
Nutritional Info (Per serving): Calories: 203, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 331mg, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Total Fat: 3g, Carbs: 28g, Sugars: 6g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Protein: 16g
Exchanges: Starch: 2, Lean Meat: 1
Carb Choices: 2
Green Chile Mac & Cheese
Submitted by K.C. Compton, Grit and Capper’s Editor in Chief
I used frozen roasted green chiles that I brought home from New Mexico, but you can also buy canned green chiles in the ethnic food section of most grocery stores. The canned stuff, however, is awfully mild, so if you really like some kick, chop and add a little fresh jalapeño.
1 pound macaroni, bowtie or shell noodles
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 to 4 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
4 tablespoons unbleached flour
4 cups whole milk, divided
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups grated cheese (I used a mix of cheddar and jack)
4 to 6 large green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
Heat oven to 350°F. Butter 2-quart baking dish; set aside.
Cook pasta al dente while preparing sauce. Drain pasta while still a little chewy. Drain in colander and toss with olive oil and 1 clove pressed garlic. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
In saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent. Add flour and stir quickly for about 3 minutes. Add remaining garlic and stir 1 minute more. Add 1 cup milk and stir well to blend. (I sometimes remove from heat for this step, to keep lumps from forming.) Add remaining milk, whisking to eliminate any lumps. Add paprika, salt and pepper.
When sauce is hot, sprinkle in about half the cheese and stir well. When melted, add a little more cheese and stir well. Remove from heat. Carefully taste sauce to see if it needs more salt or pepper. Toss cooked macaroni with green chiles. Place half the macaroni and chile mixture in bottom of prepared dish. Spread half the sauce over macaroni. Sprinkle with half the remaining cheese. Repeat another layer with remaining macaroni mixture and sauce; spread remaining cheese over top.
Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. (I spray cooking spray on the foil so it doesn’t stick to the cheese on top of the casserole.)
Mac & Cheese Corn Casserole
Submitted by J.P. Barker, Business Office
1 can (17 ounces) creamed yellow corn
1 can (17 ounces) white whole corn, with liquid
1 cup uncooked macaroni
1 cup Velveeta, cubed
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons chopped onion
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 350°F.
Do not cook macaroni. Mix all ingredients and place in casserole dish.
Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for another 30 minutes.
Note: I cook it until it is bubbling, usually 45 minutes, uncovered. I also use a glass 9-by-13-inch dish. I can’t find 17-ounce cans, so I usually use the 14- to 15-ounce cans and 2 of creamed corn and 1 of white corn.
Corny Mac & Cheese Casserole
Submitted by Darin Schroeder, Marketing Art Director
1 cup uncooked macaroni
1 stick butter
1 cup Velveeta
2 cans corn (do not drain)
Heat oven to 375°F.
Do not cook macaroni. Cut up butter and Velveeta into chunks. Mix all ingredients together; pour into casserole dish.
Cover and bake for 1 hour (uncover the last 20 minutes or so).
Mom Beightel’s Famous Baked Macaroni & Cheese
Submitted by Terri Keitel, Advertising Account Executive, Collectibles Group
Heat oven to 375°F. Cook macaroni noodles according to package.
To drained noodles, add margarine and chunked up cheese (Colby or sharp cheddar). Stir until melted.
Add 1 can diced tomatoes, and salt and pepper.
Pour mixture into baking dish. Add slices of cheese on top and bake for about 45 minutes.
Submitted by Brenda Kipp, Circulation Specialist
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) tomato soup
1 can water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
2 1/2 cups krinkly noodles or elbow macaroni
1 cup grated cheddar
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup blanched almonds, optional
Heat oven to 350°F.
In skillet, brown meat and onion; add tomato soup and water. Cook slowly 10 to 15 minutes; add seasonings. In pan, cook noodles 7 to 10 minutes; drain and blanch in cold water. Pour into casserole dish. Add meat mixture, cheeses, mushroom soup and almonds. Stir and sprinkle with additional almonds and Parmesan cheese. Bake 30 minutes. Yields 6 to 8 servings.
Variation: Omit hamburger and almonds.
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● Virginia Weaver, Weirton, West Virginia, is looking for recipes for mulberry jelly and a vanilla pie made with instant pudding, sweetened condensed milk and whipped topping.
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● Ann Heckenlively, Hanston, Kansas, is looking for a recipe and the procedure to make corn beef. She asks, “Which cut of meat? Soak or marinate? Spices or a blend thereof?”
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