Macaroni and Cheese with extras like ham, kale and more.

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Macaroni and Cheese with Kale and Ham.

Macaroni and Cheese with Kale and Ham.

Prep 5 mins   Cook 18 mins   Bake 20 mins  Eat 43 mins
America’s favorite comfort food is probably Macaroni and Cheese. There’s a zillion different ways to make Macaroni and Cheese, but the main ingredients are pasta, butter, flour, milk and cheese. Sounds like the same ingredients for an Italian Fettuccine Alfredo, right?  But I think of Mac and Cheese as more weeknight than a glammed up pasta with cream for a dinner party.  That’s why it’s our favorite comfort food.

I grew up with an Italian/French mother, who made her Mac and Cheese from scratch.  No Kraft out of a box for us. However, she did succumb to Kraft Velveeta like most 1960s moms. I learned from her that you start with a fresh made white sauce.  Maybe she got that from her heritage, where a white sauce = an Italian Balsamella Sauce = a French Béchamel Sauce.

Bechamel Sauce is the base in Macaroni and Cheese from

Béchamel Sauce is the base of a good Mac and Cheese

So that’s the first thing you need to know about making Macaroni and Cheese. How do you make a white sauce? This sounds way more difficult than it really is.  You can see step-by-step photos on how to make a Béchamel Sauce.  Click here to learn how.  In this recipe, you will cook the onion with the butter in the first step of making the white sauce.

Macaroni and Cheese ingredients from

Ingredients for Macaroni and Cheese can vary based on your taste.

Assemble all your ingredients.  The macaroni should be cooked al dente, almost underdone, since it is going to be baked in the oven.

Macaroni and Cheese with Kale from

Kale is cooked up with the onion separately in this version of my Mac and Cheese.

Then you should decide what extras you want in your Mac and Cheese.  When I have leftover ham from a holiday party, that goes in.  When I’m feeling like I need some greens, I add kale, spinach or swiss chard. Fresh spinach can be added in at the end. But the kale or swiss chard should be cooked briefly with the onion, while you make the Béchamel Sauce in a separate pan without the onion. Custom make your own Mac and Cheese and feel free to get creative.

Macaroni and Cheese recipe from

Dijon mustard adds pizazz to your Mac and Cheese.

Next, I add a lot of Dijon mustard.   The Dijon mustard really adds flavor to this grown up Mac and Cheese.

Macaroni and Cheese recipe from

Add all the ingredients in a casserole for baking.

Splurge and add a high quality cheddar cheese like Kerrygold Dubliner. You can buy a 2-pound block of it at Costco for about 12 bucks. Shred it with a hand grater or in a food processor and keep any extra in the freezer for future in a Flash meals.

Macaroni and Cheese recipe from

Macaroni and Cheese – almost ready.

Mix it all up, right in the casserole dish.

Macaroni and Cheese recipe from

Top the Macaroni and Cheese with breadcrumbs.

Top with bread crumbs or cracker crumbs.  I save bread crumbs that end up on my cutting board or from leftover bread for just this purpose.  The crunchy top is my favorite part of the dish.

Macaroni and Cheese recipe from

Baked Macaroni and Cheese will comfort you on a chilly night.

Slide it into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.  Fresh-made Macaroni and Cheese is so comforting. It’s perfect for weeknights when you want to cuddle up with something delicious.  I have to fend off the diners in my household from eating every last bite, so we will have leftovers for the next day, when I can really relax, because dinner is already made.

Print this Recipe.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound macaroni, cooked al dente, drained
1/4 cup butter
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 Tbs dijon mustard
1 dash nutmeg
1/4  tsp salt or to taste
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 cups Kerrygold Dubliner cheese, shredded (or white cheddar)
3/4 cup chopped ham
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (optional)
1/4 cup bread crumbs

1. Boil water for macaroni and begin to cook the pasta until al dente.  Do not overcook.  Drain macaroni and place in a 2 1/2 quart casserole.

2. Make White Sauce: While water is heating up, melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add onions and cook until  translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for a few minutes until all the flour is covered in fat and cooked in. It will look like a ball. Gradually whisk in the milk, mustard, nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Whisk mixture until it begins to thicken. Use a rubber scraper to scrape the corners and  the bottom of the pan for about 10 minutes.  Add the white sauce along with cheddar cheese, ham bits and optional spinach. Mix all ingredients in the casserole dish, wipe off edges

3. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

Servings: 6     656 calories per serving

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