Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Creamy Cheese and Macaroni

I like this recipe.  If you are looking for THE cheesiest mac and cheese, this is the one for you.  I’m not shy about tossing extra cheese into a recipe, but this recipe is so full of flavor that I don’t need to add a single thing to it.  I only made two very modest changes:

  1. I used red pepper flakes instead of cayenne because I didn’t have any cayenne.
  2. I left out the nutmeg because I am not grown-up enough to believe that it would have made this mac and cheese better.

I have written “Excellent” across the top of my copy of this recipe.  It takes a lot for me write that on a recipe and that one word stands as a testimony that I think a recipe is particularly noteworthy.  It’s kind of like getting an A++ on a term paper.  Which reminds me of a story from high school where I worked for a couple of months on a major term paper and only came up with four type-written pages to hand in.  But that is a story for another time. See end of post. 🙂

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe from the New York Times 
Printable Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat)
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch cayenne (I used red pepper flakes)
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (I did not use this)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked.

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.
  2. In a blender, puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg (if using) and salt and pepper together.
  3. Set aside 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping.
  4. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta.
  5. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from oven, uncover, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter.
  7. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.
Creamy Cheese and MacaroniMix puree together with the uncooked macaroni and the cheese.

 Creamy Cheese and MacaroniPour it all into a buttered baking dish.

/Creamy Cheese and MacaroniCover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 375-degrees.

 /
Creamy Cheese and MacaroniRemove from oven and stir.  This is an important step because the cheese will have begun to melt and stirring makes the sauce smooth and creamy.
  /
Creamy Cheese and MacaroniSprinkle with remaining grated cheese and dot with butter.  Return to the oven and bake uncovered for an additional 30 minutes.
/
Creamy Cheese and Macaroni mmmmmm….sigh
 /
Creamy Cheese and Macaroni

Another time.  So, I had worked really hard on this term paper for my high school honors English class and only came up with four type-written pages.  A good paper was generally at least ten pages.  I had stayed up late the night before the paper was due, plunking away on our family’s old manual typewriter.  I kept making mistakes and would have to start typing all over again on a clean sheet of paper.  Mistakes and white-out were not allowed.  At 2:00 AM my mom came upstairs to my bedroom.  I thought I was about to get in trouble because my typing was keeping my parents awake.  In an act of mercy that left me speechless, my mom said that she would type my paper.  Mom was a superior typist, the fastest and most accurate that you could ever imagine.  In a matter of a few minutes she had typed my pathetic four pages flawlessly.

After she left the room, I went to bed with very mixed emotions.  In a few hours I was going to turn in a perfectly typed term paper…of only four pages.  Mrs. Fitzsimmons would give me “the look”.  She was a slender, classy, formidable woman in her late 50s.  She was legend around the school because of her reputation as being a stunt-girl for “Jane” in some of the old Tarzan movies with Johnnie Weismuller. (She did the swimming scenes!)

At the appointed 11:00 hour I walked into English class and took my seat.  We sat alphabetically in that class, which put me smack dab in front of the teacher’s desk.  I did not make eye contact with her, but I did steal glances at my fellow students.  Everyone seemed to be in as much of a dither as me.  They were all busy chatting with each other nervously, “How many pages?”  “12”, “17”, “20”.  I was sick.  I tried to be invisible, but someone finally asked me how many pages I had written.  “Four.”  People stared at me and then got a sick look on their faces followed quickly by relief.  I was going to be the barometer for an “F”; they were safe.

You see, what made this such a terrible situation was:

  1. I had gotten a D– (that’s a D minus minus) on my first term paper (It was on Benjamin Franklin, one of my English teacher’s heroes).  The teacher, Mrs. Fitzsimmons, said that the only reason she had given me that high of a grade was because I had taken the time to write the paper at all.
  2. This term paper (on Stephen Crane’s writings) was critical to my semester grade, accounting for 50% of the grade.
  3. I was getting ready to fill out my college applications and there was no way on this planet that the school of my choice (or any other school) would EVER accept me with a C or D in English.

A couple of weeks passed.  Every day Mrs. Fitzsimmons would walk into the classroom, glare at us, and then tell us that she had read a few more of our papers.  “Ladies and gentlemen.  I have read some more of your papers.”  She would give us the stink-eye and shake her head.  It was nerve-wracking.  What was I going to tell my parents?  “So, hey mom and dad.  About that going to college thing.  I’ve decided that it’s not for me.  Nope, I want to become a hippy and join the Peace Corps and go over to Vietnam and save the world.”

I finally couldn’t take it any longer.  I had to go in and talk to Mrs. Fitzsimmons.  I needed to apologize for my poor performance.  She was an excellent teacher and she needed to know that my writing was no reflection on her teaching.  Yes, I felt that strongly about academics and I wanted her to know that I deeply appreciated all that she had tried to teach me.  Additionally, I wanted her to help me understand how to write a better paper, so that when I had to repeat 11th grade English while the rest of my classmates moved on in their illustrious high school education, I could get a passing grade.

During my lunch hour, I walked down the dim hallway towards Mrs. Fitzsimmons’ room.  I knew that this was her free period and that she would be sitting in her quiet room trying to recuperate before her next classroom was infested by 35 hormonally driven, zit picking teenagers.  I knocked on her door, halfway hoping that she wasn’t there.  But she was.

“Mrs. Fitzsimmons, I need to talk to you,” I said.  I didn’t plead; it was a simple request.

She looked at me kindly and let me into the room.  I launched into my prepared speech:  “Mrs. Fitzsimmons, I wanted to thank you for all that you have tried to teach me this year.  I know that my term paper was really bad, only four pages long.  I know that I am going to flunk and I deserve it.”  I was so depressed and despondent at this point.  My future seemed so bleak.

Mrs. Fitzsimmons was silent, letting me spill my guts.  “The worst part of all is that I don’t know what I am going to tell my parents.  Flunking is not an option at my house.  Making anything less than an “A” is pretty much not an option.  I can’t believe that I am not going to college.  I dont’ know what to do.”

A crooked smile broke out on Mrs. Fitzsimmons face and I was pretty sure that I saw her eyes twinkle.  “Miss Cook.  Sit down.”  I obeyed.

“I read your paper last night.  Would you like to see it?”  My heart started pounding.  Here it was.  At least I could get it over with now and start figuring out how to join the Peace Corps.  Maybe they would let a high school flunky into their ranks.  I wasn’t sure.

I nodded yes and steeled myself for the inevitable.  Mrs. Fitzsimmons handed me the manila folder which contained the four most important pages of my life.  I carefully opened the folder and at the top of it I saw “A-” circled in red.  I stared at it trying to comprehend that it was an “A” and not a “D” or an “F”.  I might have started to cry, I really don’t remember at this point.

“Miss Cook.  It is students like you who keep me teaching.  I often think about giving up, but every once in a while I have a student who makes teaching worth while and you have done that for me.  The difference between this paper and the first one you wrote is unbelievable.  You said more in those four pages than did any of your classmates who wrote 20 pages.”  She went on for a minute or two longer.  I just kept smiling and smiling.  I hadn’t smiled in weeks.

So what does this have to do with recipes and cooking?  Just this:  Sometimes we think that the ultimate recipe is the one with 20 ingredients that cost $20.00, with 20 steps and takes 20 hours to prepare.  But sometimes, the ultimate recipe is a 20 minute wonder that costs 4 dollars.  I’ll have to do some posts with that premise in mind.

that’s some good cookin’ Copyright 2010.  All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Kim says

    Terri,

    I enjoyed the term paper story and the discussion of the background of your grandmother’s macaroni pie. I had a similar experience with my mother telling me how country people would call peanuts “pindas” in Louisiana. I later learned that pinda is the Dutch word for peanut. Cultural influences are amazing, aren’t they?

    I happened upon it while looking for the egg-and-milk-to-pasta proportions to make mac and cheese — something I always have to do because I only allow myself to make it on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Great site. Thanks for the tips!

  2. says

    Pindas–that is so interesting. Now if we could only figure out how a Southern accent developed. I keep thinking and thinking about it. South Carolina and nothern Georgia were settled by Germans (large population), English, Swiss, Scots, and Irish. They and their descendants migrated into other parts of the South. It’s all very curious; too bad I’m not a linguist.

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