Macaroni and Cheese and the Best Broccoli

by Laura

My friends and I joke about Sunday fear. It's that feeling of dread and anxiety you get at the end of a weekend as Monday morning creeps closer. I've found that spending the afternoon cooking can be therapeutic and minimize the fear zone for me.

So today, faced with a busy work week ahead, I decided to make the ultimate comfort food -- macaroni and cheese. I also made broccoli and a salad so, you know...it is a completely healthy meal.

I used a mac and cheese recipe from Gourmet and followed it pretty closely. The original recipe is huge and calls for half of the mac to be cooked and served in single serving ramekins, but I halved the recipe and used a 13 x 9 glass dish, which worked just fine. I used some half and half where you could use milk (even low fat) but I figure if you are making mac and cheese, you might as well really go for it.

For the broccoli, I made a dumbed down version of this from Amateur Gourmet. Just roast broccoli at 425 with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and salt for 12 minutes and top with lemon zest and a little lemon juice. (The full recipe is worth making, too)

Yes, that is Ikea tableware.

Yes, that is Ikea tableware.

Sunday Fear-Killing Mac and Cheese

For topping

  • 1/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (I accidentally bought ones with Italian seasoning mixed in but it worked out well)
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
For macaroni and sauce
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 4 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 pound elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.

Melt butter, then stir together with panko and topping cheeses in a bowl until combined well.

Make sauce:
Melt butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, stirring, 3 minutes, then whisk in milk. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in cheeses, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Remove from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper.

Make Macaroni:
Cook macaroni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 4 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain macaroni in a colander. Stir together macaroni, reserved cooking water, and sauce in a large bowl. Transfer to baking dish.

Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.