Easy, Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese is an all-time favorite in the culinary world of comfort foods.
I created this recipe years ago. It saves you the time of making a béchamel sauce and employing the precise measurements and constant stirring that process entails.
Every time I serve this dish, I get rave reviews and am asked for the recipe. At first I wanted to keep it a secret, but—hey—give the people what they want, right? I’m not your grandma, but if your guests like this recipe, I’d appreciate credit where credit is due.
Ready? Here we go!
Oh, wait, I'm not quite ready. I have to tell you I usually just eyeball the measurements in this recipe. After all, when recipes are born of imagination and experimentation, there are no rules—just eyes and taste buds. However, knowing I wanted to share this delicious recipe with you I made it a point to take note of my approximate measurements.
Ok. Now we’re ready...
Cook Time: What You Need to Know
- Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
- Cook time: 35 to 40 minutes
- Start to finish: 50 to 60 minutes
- Serves: 4 people (or plenty of leftovers for yourself)
- Calories: Yes
- Nutritional value: Comfort food for the soul
- 1 2/3 cups dry noodles (I like to mix shells with elbows. The shells capture the cheese.)
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 (10½-ounce) can cream of celery soup, undiluted (i.e., DON’T add water! I use Campbell’s Healthy Request; it’s lower in sodium, fat, and calories)
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3+ cups shredded cheddar cheese (I sometimes do 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 blend of Monterey Jack, cheddar, and Muenster.)
- 3 Roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise (they’re shaped like footballs)
- Salt and pepper to taste
äl ˈdentā adjective and adverb
(of food, typically pasta) cooked so as to be still firm when bitten.
Instructions: How to Make the Magic
- Boil the noodles in salted water until just al dente. You don’t want the noodles to be fully cooked because they’re going to finishing cooking in the oven.
- Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
- Drain the noodles and place in an oven-proof casserole dish, at least 3-quart capacity.
- Add the butter and stir until melted.
- Add the soup and coat the noodles well. This is where eye-balling comes in. You don’t need the whole can. Add a spoonful at a time until all the noodles are coated.
- Add the milk, stirring to mix. You want it to be soupy at this point (see photo). It’ll thicken up when you add the cheese.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. You shouldn’t need a lot of salt because the cream of celery is a tad salty, as is cheddar cheese, so taste before you salt.
- Add the cheese in batches, mixing well between each addition. When it’s pretty thick with cheese, but still creamy, you’re good.
- Smooth out the top and line the perimeter of the dish with tomatoes. Run them up the center as well. The tomatoes add moisture and a zingy taste to the dish.
- Place the casserole dish in the oven, uncovered and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cheese bubbles and the tomatoes start to blister (wrinkle).
- Take out of the oven (don’t forget the oven mitts!) and cover until ready to serve. This will allow the juices to combine and the mac to remain creamy.
Photo GuideClick thumbnail to view full-size
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© 2020 Shauna L Bowling