Thanksgiving Mac and Cheese

What makes this Thanksgiving Mac and Cheese?  Well, you serve it on Thanksgiving…that’s about it.  It doesn’t contain any Pilgrim or turkey bits or anything like that.  Actually, I had a request from JED for a side-dish worthy mac and cheese to serve at her holiday meal–something creamy, with a little bit of spice–and you don’t really have to twist my arm to get me to whip up some mac and cheese.  It is my second-favorite food, right after peanut butter. I started by grating two cups of extra-sharp cheddar and the same amount of asiago cheese:

I like this cheese combo because the sharp cheddar adds that classic cheese taste and texture, and the asiago gives it some real depth and a nutty flavor.  Next I melted six tablespoons of light butter over medium-high heat (this is the only concession I made, but light butter works just fine here) and whisked in a third of a cup of flour:

You don’t want this to brown, so just make sure it is well combined.  Next, whisk in 2-3 cups of milk.  I am giving a range here because if you like a saucier end product you should use more milk and make a thinner white sauce, and I used two cups for reasons noted below.  I don’t recommend skim milk but lowfat will work.  Whisk until smooth and bubbly.

When the sauce has thickened and bubbled, reduce the heat to low and start adding in the cheeses a cup a time, stirring after each addition.  The cheese doesn’t have to be fully melted in, and you can turn off the heat all together for the last two cups.

At this point I whisked in a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a quarter of a teaspoon of ground chipotle pepper, a half teaspoon of salt, a half teaspoon of smoked paprika, and a teaspoon of ground mustard.  Now your sauce is complete.  Pour in a pound of almost-cooked, drained pasta–I slightly undercook the pasta so it doesn’t get too mushy as it bakes:

Spoon this into a large baking pan (a nine by thirteen will work) that you have coated with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, stir together a quarter cup of bread crumbs with a half cup of grated, aged cheese (I used Grana Padano).  Sprinkle this evenly over the top for a crunchy crust.  If you are not into the crunch factor, omit this step and instead sprinkle on some additional cheddar.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the crumbs have browned a bit and there are bubbly cheese volcanoes cropping up all through the pasta.  Remove and cool slightly before serving.

I used a small penne for this because I like how it sucks up the cheese sauce, and I used only two cups of milk because, well, I forgot to go to the store 🙁  I prefer the three-cup, saucier version, but this was still gosh-darn tasty.  If you want to shake up your holiday table a bit and also have another vegetarian option, this is a nice addition.

Thanks for reading,


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16 Responses to Thanksgiving Mac and Cheese

  1. Steve November 21, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    Any Mac and cheese that doesn't come out of a box is OK with me.

  2. November 22, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Angela… this is divine! I think I would go all out with whole-milk – a treat for the entire family. I am putting this on my list this week! – Thanks so much for making me hungry! – Megan

  3. Angela FRS November 22, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    Thanks Megan! Your cake looks amazing–just buzzed it.

  4. Anonymous November 22, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    Thanks Angela! I was thinking I might make this ahead of time, on Wednesday. Though if I make it early I might just eat it all up. 🙂

  5. Viviane Bauquet Farre / Food and Style November 22, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    I bet this is everybody's favorite at your Thanksgiving table! Delicious…

  6. Karen Harris November 22, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    This looks delicious Angela. I love the addition of the chipotle. Anything with that and Asiago gets an A+ from me.

  7. Anonymous November 23, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    Just to clarify, it's 1/3 of a cup of flour?

  8. Angela FRS November 23, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    Yes, sorry if that wasn't clear–1/3 cup of flour!

  9. Anonymous November 23, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    I couldn't figure out where the other two cups went! 🙂

  10. Yenta Mary November 25, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    I adore macaroni and cheese, and would happily eat this for breakfast if any were available to me right now … 🙂

  11. MamaSteph October 23, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    Girlie, you had me at “Grana Padano.” It’s my favorite! 🙂 Nice to meet you; found your recipe on RecipeNewz!

    • Angela October 23, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Great to meet you, Steph!

  12. Elaina Newton October 23, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Mmmm. I love that is had a slightly crunchy topping. I wonder how panko breadcrumbs would work here? Might be worth at try (especially since that’s the only breadcrumbs I buy). Also, love the cheddar & asiago combo.

    • Angela October 23, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

      Panko would be fantastic–nice and crispy.

  13. Janny November 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Would elbow macaroni work just as well as small penne–as far as sucking up flavor and surviving mushy challenge?

    • Angela November 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

      Yes, it should work just fine–I don’t think it would be a problem.

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