Winter has definitely arrived and the weather is cold, dark, and dreary. Boo! What we need is something delicious and warm to take our minds off of the freezing January temperatures – like a big skillet full of cheesy, gooey Smoky Mac and Cheese. Now we’re talking.
This is the perfect dish to warm you up and chase away some of those winter blues. Just thinking of melted cheese makes me feel better already. The addition of smoked cheddar cheese gives this classic dish a more complex flavor and the buttery panko breadcrumb topping bumps up the appeal. To take this recipe up another notch, I’ve included Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Elbows. Like all Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat pastas, these elbows are made from 100% Durum whole wheat, the highest quality wheat available. And the hearty texture and great whole wheat taste truly compliments a rich dish like this. With Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat pasta, my family is eating healthier and getting more nutrition than they would if I’d have made this dish from regular white pasta.
You’ll need Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Elbows and cheese, cheese and more cheese. Grated sharp cheddar cheese and grated smoked cheddar cheese to be precise.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add 1 ¾ cups of Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Elbows. Cook until they’re just shy of al dente- about 6-7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook until it’s smooth – stirring constantly – about a minute. Add the milk and stir over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes or until thickened.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cheeses until smooth. Season the sauce with cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.
Fold the elbow noodles into the cheese sauce and pour the mixture into a 9-to 10-inch baking dish or cast iron skillet. I used a cast iron skillet.
In a small, heatproof bowl, melt the remaining butter in the microwave. Stir the panko breadcrumbs into the melted butter and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Sprinkle the panko over the pasta. Regular fresh breadcrumbs will also work, but panko gets so delightfully crispy – you’ll want to use it if you can.
Bake the pasta in a 375˚F oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbly. Remove from the oven.
To give the panko topping just a little more crunch, broil the mac and cheese for a few minutes until it’s sufficiently browned and toasty. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before serving.
Hearty Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Elbows nestled in a smoky cheddar cheese sauce covered with a crunchy panko topping is the perfect comfort food to warm you up from the inside out on a cold winter’s night. My family loved this new version of macaroni and cheese and I hope you do, too. Jack Frost certainly won’t be nipping at your nose when you have a plateful of delicious Smoky Mac and Cheese for dinner. Enjoy!
Smoky Mac and Cheese
- 1 ¾ cups uncooked Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Elbows
- 3 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 Tablespoons Hodgson Mill Naturally White Flour
- 2 ¼ cups milk (2% or whole milk preferably)
- 1 ½ cups smoked cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
- 1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the elbow noodles until just shy of al dente. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet, melt 2 ½ tablespoons of the butter and whisk in the flour until smooth. Add the milk and continue stirring and cooking over moderately high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly until thickened – about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the cheeses until smooth. Add the cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the pasta and pour the mixture into a 9- to 10-inch baking dish or cast iron skillet. In a small heatproof bowl, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the microwave. Stir the panko breadcrumbs into the melted butter and then sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Bake in a 375oF oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbly. Remove from the oven. Turn on the broiler and broil the mac and cheese for a few minutes or until the topping is sufficiently browned and toasty. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before serving.
Adapted from Food and Wine Magazine