Classic Macaroni & Cheese with Sourdough Bread Crumb Topping

This cheesy pasta lived up to its title as “classic.” The combination of cheeses gave it the perfect velvety texture. We ate it as part of my husband’s birthday feast this year. Everyone loved it!

The recipe was adapted from The New Best Recipe All-New Edition from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. The original recipe also notes that the recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch square baking dish. Great.

Yield: one 9×13-inch casserole: Serves 6 to 8 as a main course or 10 to 12 as a side dish

For the Bread Crumb Topping:

  • 6 slices (about 6 ounces) good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into rough pieces (I used Trader Joe’s Sourdough sandwich bread)
  • 3 T cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

For the Casserole:

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • salt
  • 5 T unsalted butter
  • 6 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 5 cups milk (whole, low-fat, or skim okay)(I used 3 cups whole and 2 cups low-fat)
  • 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

To Prepare the Bread Crumbs:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the bread and butter until the crumbs are no larger than 1/8-inch, about 10 to 15 pulses. Set aside.

To Prepare the Pasta & Cheese:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the broiler.
  2. Place a 9×13-inch broiler safe baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. (I also covered the enameled handles of my baking dish with foil to protect them from the heat of the broiler.)
  3. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until the pasta is tender (NOT al dente).
  4. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water (for reheating leftovers). Drain in a colander and set aside.
  5. In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium-high heat until foaming.
  6. Add the flour, mustard, and cayenne; whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until the mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. (I used a flat whisk.)
  7. Whisking constantly, gradually add the the milk; bring the mixture to a boil. The mixture must reach a full boil to fully thicken.
  8. After the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated cheeses and 1 teaspoon of coarse salt. Whisk until the cheeses are completely melted.
  10. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is steaming and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes.
  11. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and sprinkle the top evenly with the bread crumbs.
  12. Broil until the crumbs are deep golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes, rotating the pan if necessary for even browning. (I set my oven to Broil+Max @500 degrees.) Cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Cauliflower & Tomatoes

I have a couple family friendly comfort food pasta casseroles to share. In my house, this type of dish always seems to be the perfect meal in cold weather.

We recently enjoyed this one on a snowy evening- eating by candlelight. I thanked my lucky stars that it had finished baking before our power went out… hence the candlelight! 😉

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I used diced tomatoes and substituted fontina for provolone. I suppose half and half could be substituted for some (or all) of the heavy cream, but I went for the full indulgence on this (dark and cold) occasion.

  • 1 pound pasta, such as medium shell or tube pasta (I used Capunti pasta)
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 4 ounces fontina, coarsely grated
  • 2 ounces extra sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ head of cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • room-temperature butter or nonstick cooking oil spray (for pan)
  • fresh herbs such as thyme, basil, or parsley, for garnish, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  2. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until about halfway cooked (it needs to be very firm at this stage so that it doesn’t overcook when baked). Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid, and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
  3. Combine mozzarella, fontina, cheddar, Parmesan, cream, diced tomatoes, and reserved ½ cup pasta cooking liquid in a large bowl; mix to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Add cauliflower and cooked pasta and toss to coat.
  5. Grease a 3-qt. or 13x9x2″ baking dish with butter or cooking oil spray.
  6. Scrape in pasta mixture and spread out into an even layer.
  7. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake pasta until hot throughout and steaming when foil is lifted, 20–25 minutes.
  8. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 425◦, preferably on convection.
  9. Continue to bake pasta until sauce is bubbling and top is browned and crunchy in spots, 20–30 minutes.
  10. Let cool slightly before serving. Garnish with fresh herbs, as desired.

Note: Pasta can be assembled 2 days ahead. Cover and chill until ready to bake.

One Year Ago: Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

Two Years Ago: Oscar Night Waffles

Three Years Ago: Chicken Parmesan with Chicken Thighs

Four Years Ago: Chicken, Shrimp, & Clam Jambalaya

Five Years Ago:

Cacio e Pepe

This is a dream quick dish for me. Cheese and pepper… two of my favorite ingredients. This classic Italian recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit.

I have made it on a few occasions using both Barilla bucatini and DeCecco linguine fine, par cooking the pasta for 5 minutes. It is wonderful served with a simple green salad or roasted vegetables. Love it.

Yield: Serves 2 to 3

  • coarse salt
  • 8 oz pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, linguine fini, or spaghetti)
  • 3 T unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
  1. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
  3. Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter.
  4. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry. I added all of the remaining pasta water.)
  5. Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

One Year Ago:

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Five Years Ago:

Happy Mother’s Day & Cooking for a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge

Happy Mother’s Day! I wish all of the mom’s out there a beautiful and relaxing day. ❤ While Mr. BrookCook and my kids take care of me and the cooking today, I have time to share a special mother-daughter cooking project.

In order to earn a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge, my daughter (with my help) had to cook a complete breakfast, a healthy dinner, and a delicious dessert. Understandably, she wanted to make meals that she wanted to eat! This was actually a great opportunity for her as she is harder to please when menu planning. It was a lesson in itself to see how much time and work is required to put together an entire meal. 🙂

We made Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for breakfast with fruit salad on the side. She loved cutting all of the fruit herself. For the “healthy” dinner, she prepared a No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below) with Simple Caesar Salad. Healthy enough, right? She loved it so much we have already made it again.

We made a Lemon Meringue Pie, using a store-bought pie crust, for dessert. Not only did she make the pie, she typed out the recipe to share with her Girl Scout Troop. A big project! She did a great job and I was very proud of her. I hope that she continues to enjoy cooking more and more in the future. ❤

No-Boil Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pasta:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar, divided

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
  7. Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil.
  9. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

For the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture.
  2. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

The sad news is that my search is over for the perfect macaroni and cheese. 😉 This version was incredible. It’s easy to prepare, the pasta is even incorporated uncooked, and I was able to assemble it in advance and refrigerate it for a couple of hours prior to baking as well.  I also loved that it had dry mustard and cottage cheese in its creamy filling. The golden-brown crispy crust on the top was just the icing on the cake.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. I used DeCecco cavatappi instead of elbows (so much more fun) and decreased the amount of butter (slightly). We enjoyed it as part of my husband’s extravagant birthday feast! Absolutely delicious.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings   Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (not low-fat)
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)(I used whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used my favorite Cabot Classic Vermont 3-year Cheddar)
  • ½ pound cavatappi or elbow pasta, uncooked
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection, and position an oven rack in upper third of oven.
  2. Use scant 1/2 tablespoon of butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan. (I used a deep 8-inch round ceramic soufflé dish.)
  3. In a blender or Vitamix, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together.
  4. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. 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. (I put the assembled, covered dish in the refrigerator for several hours prior to baking.)
  6. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter.
  7. Bake, uncovered, 20 to 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Cheesy Pasta Casserole with Wild Mushrooms

This is high-class macaroni and cheese. 😉 Fancy comfort food. A delicious vegetarian main course. What’s not to love? My favorite pasta shape- orecchiette- with earthy mushrooms, salty Parmigiano Reggiano, and fabulous melted fontina cheese. Prior to incorporating the mushrooms with the pasta, they are roasted with rosemary which infuses them with amazing flavor. Delicious.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used two cloves of garlic and a combination of cremini and shiitake mushrooms. I also decreased the baking temperature to 475 degrees (because I was worried about damaging my special casserole dish). No worries- it was still brown and bubbly. 🙂

Now that spring has sprung, I thought that I may have missed my chance to post this cozy dish, but it may snow here tonight! So I suppose I’m safe. :/

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 pound mixed wild or cultivated mushrooms, such as oyster, maitake and shiitake (I used 12 oz cremini mushrooms and 4 oz shiitake mushrooms.)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, plus a few grinds
  • 2 fresh rosemary branches
  • ½ pound orecchiette, farfalle or other short pasta
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup fresh ricotta
  • 5 ounces fontina cheese, grated (1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated (I used a garlic press.)
  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Trim the mushrooms and cut into 1-inch pieces. Toss with the olive oil, the salt, a few grinds of pepper and the rosemary. Spread on a large baking sheet and roast, tossing once or twice, until golden brown and crisped around the edges, 15 to 18 minutes. Discard rosemary.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for at least a few minutes less than the package directs. (You want the pasta very al dente; it will finish softening in the sauce.) Drain well.
  4. Turn oven up to 475 degrees.
  5. In a large bowl, stir together the cream, ricotta, fontina, Parmesan, sage, pepper, garlic and a pinch of salt
  6. Stir in the pasta and mushrooms.
  7. Arrange in a shallow 2-quart gratin dish or 9- by 13-inch pan.
  8. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly and browned in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Super Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

Well, here it is. I know you all have been waiting for this recipe to complete my husband’s coke-brined fried chicken with biscuits and gravy birthday meal. 🙂

This is the most indulgent, rich, super creamy, super cheesy macaroni and cheese ever. So much so that I could only bring myself to make one half of the original recipe. It was more than enough- especially because we ate it as a side dish! :/ It would also be a wonderful main dish with a huge green salad. (Half of the original recipe would still easily serve at least 4 people as a main dish.)

This recipe was adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics, via Smitten Kitchen. HBD Mr. Brookcook! ❤

Yield: Serves 10+ as a side dish or 4+ as a main dish

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
  • 3 to 4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn or cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (I used Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane)
  • 2 3/4 cups milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for water
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Gruyère
  • 1/2 pound short pasta such as campanelle or elbow macaroni

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F on convection. Butter an 8×8-inch (or equivalent), 2-quart casserole dish; set aside. (I sprayed my dish with cooking oil spray instead.)
  2. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a medium bowl, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the microwave. Add the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.
  3. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. (I warmed it in the microwave instead -one less pot to clean!) Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  4. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, and 3/4 cups Gruyère; set the cheese sauce aside.
  6. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Gruyère on top. Sprinkle the reserved breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the grated cheeses.
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes on convection (or up to 30+ minutes in a standard oven). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

Also- an update!

No ducklings yet… I guess we’ll have to welcome the goslings for now… 🙂

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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