Mom says when it's this cold, a salad just isn't going to cut it, and I agree (mostly because I don't love salad). When the high temperature for the week is 9 degrees, having a little extra padding is a good thing!
2 cups of elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup of flour
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups of milk
2 cups of cheese – grates, sliced, diced, chunked, crumbled
Panko (if you like)
Preheat the oven to 400.
Boil water and add 2 cups of elbow macaroni. Don’t forget to salt the water.
Cook the pasta about 8 minutes, just to al dente. It will soften when it absorbs the sauce in the oven and you don’t want it mushy!
Drain the pasta and set aside.
In another pan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat, then add ¼ cup of flour and whisk it constantly until it turns the color of peanut butter. No darker!
Whisk in 1 teaspoon of dried mustard, and 1 teaspoon of paprika.
Add 2 cups of milk, and stir constantly, until you have a beautiful creamy sauce.
You’ll want about 2 cups of cheese, total, but you can taste test the sauce along the way to get just the right “oomph” you’re after. Use whatever cheese you want. If it’s grated, great. If it’s a chunk, crumble it with your fingers, or grate it. If it’s slices, rip them to strips. It doesn’t really matter what kind of cheese you use, as long as you like them. We’ve done brie and gorgonzola (not together) and they were both fabulous!
Add the cheese to the béchamel sauce and stir until there are no separate chunks of cheese visible.
Add the pasta, and stir.
Pour into a buttered baking dish.
If you like the top to be crunchy, you can add panko breadcrumbs now. (We prefer slightly browned bits of cheese so we leave it naked.)
Bake for 25 or 30 minutes, until the top is as bubbly and wonderful as you want it to be.
As hard as it will be, try to wait 15-20 minutes before digging in. The flavors really develop with just a few minutes’ rest time.