Sunday, September 8, 2013

My favorite meal: Mom's Baked Mac and Cheese

I feel like saying the following recipe is my favorite meal is a really big thing to say. But I'm also 100% confident that it's a true statement so, yes. This is my favorite meal.

Did you have one meal that you're mom would always make for you when you came home from college for a weekend or holiday break? By my junior year, my mom didn't even have to ask anymore. She knew without a doubt I was going to ask for her homemade baked mac and cheese, and she would happily oblige.

I absolutely love my Mom's Baked Mac and Cheese. If any meal tastes like home, this is the one. This macaroni and cheese is so ooey and gooey, with a rich cheesy center and a crispy top. It's everything you want in a mac and cheese dish! I literally need to remind myself to breathe when I'm eating this because I simply cannot stop shoveling forkfuls of it into my mouth.

Now, I know what you're thinking. We've all had baked mac and cheese before, and there are so many great recipes out there. This is true--it's a magical dish. I don't think I've ever met a mac and cheese I didn't like!

My mom's recipe is unique in that it all starts with Cambell's tomato soup. It's the perfect base in which to melt a delicious block of sharp cheddar cheese. It's smooth and creamy and rich in flavor. You have got to try this!

Oh, and don't even get me started on the crispy top. In it's purest form, this macaroni and cheese is topped with a layer of shredded cheddar cheese. The macaroni bakes and then gets a few minutes under the broiler. This gets that cheese brown and bubbly and irresistible. Of course, you could totally jazz this up by combining the shredded cheese with a bit of melted butter and breadcrumbs. Cory and I have even put ground meat for an added protein kick. Have fun with it! Best served with steamed broccoli or sauteed brussel sprouts* to mop up that awesome cheese sauce!

*Note: Brussel sprouts NOT mother approved..she just hates them

Here's what you need for Mom's Baked Mac and Cheese (Print Recipe!)

1 pound short cut pasta, such as elbows or medium shells
2 10.5-oz cans Cambell's condensed Tomato Soup
1 block sharp cheddar, such as Cracker Barrel, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste

Here's what you do

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the pasta and cook about 6 minutes (or 2 minutes less than advised cooking time on the box). You want it to be very al dente as it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain well.

In a medium sauce pot, warm the tomato soup over low heat. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Rinse out the cans with a splash of water and add to the pot (to thin out the soup a touch). Add the cubed cheddar and cook until fully melted into the soup, stirring constantly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dump the cooked pasta into a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour the soup cheese mixture over the top and gently stir until fully coated. Spread the shredded cheddar evenly over the top. Bake for 10 minutes or until the sides are bubbly.

Turn on the broiler and cook the mac and cheese about 2 minutes longer, watching VERY carefully to be sure the top doesn't burn! Allow to cool about 3 minutes before serving. Enjoy!!