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Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 6 as a main dish,
10 as a side dish

My favorite macaroni and cheese will probably always be my Nana Ranck's stovetop version, which is in the similar and related recipes. It is easy, cheesy and delicious. But I do enjoy the more traditional baked macaroni and cheese now and then. This recipe, with a creamy cheese sauce and crumb topping, is very easy and delicious. Serve as a side dish or a meatless main dish that will satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 375° F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Place the breadcrumbs in a small bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and stir to combine. Set aside. Add the flour to the remaining butter in saucepan; whisk to combine. Continue to cook and whisk for 1 or 2 minutes, reducing the heat if it starts to brown. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper until the cheese is melted.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente, being very careful not to overcook. Drain well. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the cheese sauce until well-combined.

Generously butter a 14x10x2-inch or similar-sized baking dish. Spread the macaroni and cheese into the dish. Sprinkle with the buttered breadcrumbs. Bake until lightly browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let set about 5 minutes before serving.

Notes: Casserole can be assembled ahead, covered and refrigerated. Either bring to room temperature before baking or add 10 to 15 minutes to the baking time. Not all elbow macaroni is created equal. Some are much smaller than others. For this recipe, I prefer a medium-sized pasta. If the elbows you can find are very small, you might want to use medium shells or mini penne rigate.