Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Let’s face it.  Macaroni and cheese is delicious.  I’ll be honest, my husband makes a mean Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner.  I know, I know, it’s cheap, pre-packaged, blah blah blah, how could it be amazing, but there is something about the way he mixes the sauce that is better than I’ve ever done it…I wish I was kidding, but I’m not.  Besides, if everyone was more honest, then I am sure other people would agree that sometimes pre-packaged food hits the spot!

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But there are other times when you want the real deal.  And this, my friends, is the real deal.  I have made homemade mac’n’cheese a few times and this was one of the more successful times.  Though I will say, the less-successful times were at no fault of the recipe itself, rather because I did something to mess it up.  I have heard from others that it can be difficult to get the roux just right, or the creaminess just right, and I do agree!  I feel that it is an acquired talent, and one that I am working on.  Baked, or homemade in general, mac’n’cheese always tastes the best at a restaurant, but that won’t stop me from trying!

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I was a bit worried at first, because as you can see in one of the pictures, the start of the roux looked a bit…clumpy…but add in the cheese and other liquids, and it was so perfect and creamy!  Just what I was going for!  This recipe made A LOT of pasta, and we had leftovers for days, which were not as creamy after being refrigerated then reheated, but still tasty.

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This Lighter Backed Macaroni and Cheese from Skinnytaste called for spinach, which is an interesting (and healthy) flair, but I omitted it because I do not at all liked cooked, wilted spinach.  To be clear, I love spinach, especially in salads, but I much prefer it raw.

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One thing I’d like to add is that I’m amazed at how filling it was.  I do not think I have ever been this filled from just macaroni and cheese.  A serving is one cup, and I ended up having a half-serving of seconds, because it was so yummy, but I definitely did not need it.  I know they say that whole wheat pasta is more filling than white pasta, but I almost always use whole wheat pasta and I had never been so full from it before.  I am not sure why, but I’ll take it!  Side note: this homemade version is also far lower in calories than its Kraft counterpart!

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Side note: The final product looks a wee bit burnt, but I promise, it wasn’t at all.  I left it in under the broiler for about a minute longer than I intended!

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Lighter Baked Macaroni and Cheese

serves 6+

Ingredients:
-12oz whole wheat elbow macaroni (I just used a whole box, which was 13.25oz)
-2tbsp butter
-1/4cu flour
-1/4cu minced onion
-2cu skim milk
-1cu fat free chicken broth (I’ve never actually found fat free chicken broth, but I use low sodium broth)
-8oz 2% reduced fat mild cheddar (I used sharp – way better)
-salt and pepper
-4cu baby spinach (I omitted)
-1/8cu grated parmesan (I don’t even know if they make 1/8 measuring cups…but I definitely upped to 1/4!)
-1/4cu seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs
-cooking spray

Directions:
-Cook pasta according to package directions. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375°.
-Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt butter. Add flour and cook over low heat stirring with a whisk. Add onion and cook for another 2 minutes. Add milk and chicken broth and continue whisking, raising heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil and becomes smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.
-Once it becomes thick, remove from heat, add cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, then add cooked macaroni and baby spinach. Pour into the baking dish. Top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Spray a little more spray on top.
-Bake for 15-20 minutes, then broil for a few minutes to get the breadcrumbs golden.

Other Mac’n’Cheese Recipes seen on Never The Same Dish:

Truffle Oil Bacon Macaroni and Cheese (this is actually the best meal ever – I got excited just re-reading the post).

Parmesan Macaroni and Cheese

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