My mac and cheese brings all the boys to the yard… Well, it would if I had a yard! Maybe it’ll bring them to my balcony? No, wait, that’s creepy. Never mind! I will, however, boldly state that my recipe is the best! It is the ultimate grown up version of the childhood classic.
For the past three years, since John.e and I started living together, I have heard on many occasion that he would like to have macaroni and cheese for dinner. But, I refused to make it because, to be completely honest, I cannot stand the texture of macaroni noodles! They tend to feel slimy and overcooked in my mouth. I blame it on a babysitter that my parents left us with when we were kids. Okay, she wasn’t actually OUR babysitter, but she was babysitting our two friends, Matthew and Jonathan. My parents had gone shopping with their parents and even though my brother and I were old enough to be left on our own, it was decided that we would spend the afternoon with our two friends and play Nintendo.
The babysitter was a nightmare of a woman; she did nothing but talk on the phone and chain smoke. And as all little boys know, playing Nintendo is hard work! She offered to make us Kraft Dinner. Well, somehow she managed to serve us a bowl of chemically treated orange macaroni which was wet and slimy, yet still crunchy. No matter how much ketchup I put in that bowl, I could not swallow that poor excuse for macaroni and cheese!
Fast forward a few years later, and, I will admit, I did eat Kraft Dinner occasionally. My ex wife used to make a casserole with mushroom soup, cheese, and Kraft Dinner, and it was actually very good! All was good with the world until my ex wife’s sister, (I love you, Natasha!) prepared Kraft Dinner one day for some reason or another. One bite was all it took and we all questioned what she did to make it taste like we were drinking from the Red Sea. It was so damn salty!!! And guess what!? It was still slimy! (We learned that while she was salting the water, the lid fell off the salt shaker, and rather than change out the water, she used it anyway!)
My love… no, not love… acceptance(?) of Kraft Dinner died. I never again ate it! And, that, my friend, is where my distaste for macaroni and cheese came from. Deciding to surprise John.e with mac and cheese when he came home from work, however, was how this recipe came to be, and my love of mac and cheese has been reborn.
I really wanted to develop a grown up version of this dish, because I had tried a little of the homemade stuff from time to time, but never acquired a taste for it. It seemed that the only two ingredients in the stuff I ate was boiled macaroni and grated cheese, which was baked in the oven with a few bread crumbs sprinkled on top. Now, if that’s how you like it, I won’t judge you. Who am I kidding? Of course I will judge you! But, I will reserve judgement until after you have tried this recipe and can tell me honestly that it’s not a million times better!
- ¼ cup salted butter
- 500 grams macaroni, uncooked
- 6 cups old cheddar cheese, white, grated
- 4 cups 2% milk
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 2 14 ounce cans artichokes in water, drained and roughly chopped
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Prepare the macaroni as per the package instructions, however, cut the cooking time by 1 minute. For example, if the package states to cook for 5 minutes, then cut the cooking time back to 4 minutes. This dish will bake as well and we don't want to overcook the macaroni! Drain and cool.
- In a large sauce pan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the salt and pepper and stir them into the sizzling butter. Next, add the flour and whisk until the flour is absorbed by the butter and the entire mixture turns an amber colour. This process is cooking off the flour taste and creating a roux.
- Next, pour in the milk and whisk until thickened. Set aside your whisk and get a large wooden spoon. Add the cheese, spinach, and artichokes. Stir until completely combined, and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Continue to stir otherwise the cheese mixture might burn while the pan is cooling.
- Add the cooled macaroni and stir well into the cheese sauce. Once incorporated, transfer to a large baking dish. Top with the bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.