Macaroni and cheese, while quite popular with the kids, is nevertheless kind of a last-minute dinner for me to make when I’m either out of ideas or short on time. On these occasions I make a stove-top version that ends up being a bit like the kind from a box – tasty, but it sometimes feels like cheating. It had been a while since I made a baked version, but it’s more substantial than my stove-top version and I definitely feel better about serving it to the family as “dinner”, especially paired with some steamed vegetables. I did, however, make the mistake of using Jarlsberg cheese this time which is very similar in flavor to Swiss cheese, a cheese that M really doesn’t care for (unless it is on a Cuban sandwich). Fortunately any other good melting cheese will do.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese (makes a deep 9×13-inch pan)
1 pound macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
15 ounces ricotta cheese
10 ounces grated cheese (cheddar, jack, swiss, or any other good melting cheese will do)
Salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the macaroni according to the package’s instructions. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. When melted and bubbling, whisk in the flour. Stir and cook for one minute. Whisk in the milk just a little bit at a time, waiting until the previous addition has been incorporated before adding more. When all the milk has been added, cook on medium heat for a few minutes until it has noticeably thickened. Remove from the heat. When the macaroni has finished cooking, drain it and then add it to the white sauce. Stir well, then stir in the ricotta and half of the grated cheese. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour into a buttered 9×13-inch pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top, then put it into the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, until hot and bubbling. If you like a crisp top, cook it under the broiler for several minutes. Serve immediately.