As so many young people now and in the past have done, I used to baby sit. I remember one time, as the parents were leaving, they instructed me to make macaroni and cheese for dinner for their two children. That’s easy enough, I thought. I mixed it up, served it up and the kids ate it up.
Homework was done. They watched their favorite television show, and off they went to bed. The parents returned from their evening out and as the husband checked on the sleeping children, the mother queried me about dinner.
“Yes, we had macaroni and cheese,” I informed her. Of course, all of the dishes had long since been washed, dried and neatly put away — so there was no evidence. She seemed to have a problem with my rather straight-forward answer and accused me of lying. She snatched a commercial box of macaroni and cheese mix out of the cupboard and shoved it under my nose.
Well! I had never seen a mix for macaroni and cheese before and didn’t quite know how to respond. But somehow I managed to convince her that I had made macaroni and cheese. I used the butter, milk and cheese from the refrigerator and the macaroni noodles from the shelf. I don’t remember her apologizing to me. I was just a teenager after all, even if I did know how to make macaroni and cheese from scratch.
That was the first time I realized that some people could cook, and others either didn’t know how, couldn’t or didn’t. Coming from a big family (nine kids) I had made macaroni and cheese many, many times before. It is an economical dish that also is very filling.
It has become known as one of the classic comfort foods. And it’s surprisingly easy to make from scratch. It can be fancy—add lobster meat. You can sneak in extra vegetables—add fresh spinach or lightly steamed broccoli, cauliflower or corn. The food you grew up with in simpler times has withstood the test of time.
Real Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 6, more if used as a side dish
- 1 lb. macaroni noodles
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 4 cups milk
- 12 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 12 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese
- salt to taste
- 1/4 tsp. white pepper
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 4 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 2 Tbsps, crushed parsley
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- Melt butter in a large sauce pan. Stir in flour to form a roux and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time, and continue to cook over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients, stir to combine. Cook, while stirring until cheese is melted and mixture is thickened.
- Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling water until just tender. Drain and pour cooked macaroni into a 9-by-13-inch cake pan or other appropriately sized baking dish. Pour the sauce over the macaroni and mix together.
- Make topping by combining all ingredients together. Spread on top of macaroni. Bake in a 350 F oven until bubbling hot—about 20 minutes.