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Not your everyday mac n cheese, this recipe is very rich. It is just a tad spicy with the red pepper and dijon mustard. Even with the little bit of spice it is still child friendly. And delicious! I grate my cheese (slowly at that!) so your prep time will be less if you used shredded-from-the-package cheese. You can use unsalted butter in the sauce. If you use regular butter but prefer less salt, then just cut back a bit on the salt listed in the ingredients.
- 3⁄4 lb elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups crushed Ritz crackers
- 1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (approx. 4 oz.)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1⁄2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 3⁄4 cups milk
- 3⁄4 cup heavy cream
- 4 cups coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (approx. 1 lb.)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- 1⁄4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Grease a 3-quart shallow baking dish.
- Bring a pot of salted water (Who wants bland pasta?) to boil for the macaroni.
- The yummy topping: Melt 2 T unsalted butter
- In a bowl stir melted butter together with crushed Ritz and 1 cup cheddar until well combined. This can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
- The yummy sauce: In a 5-quart heavy saucepan melt 3 T butter over med low heat.
- Stir in flour and red pepper flakes.
- Stir about 3 minutes and whisk in milk.
- Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly.
- Simmer, whisking occasionally, for about 3 minutes or so.
- Stir in the cream, the 4 cups of cheddar, mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Remove pan from heat and cover surface of sauce with wax paper.
- Cook macaroni in boiling water, al dente. (per package instructions)
- Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
- Drain macaroni.
- Return the macaroni to the pot (off the burner) and mix together the macaroni, reserved cooking water, and the sauce. (The sauce does stick a bit to the wax paper when removed)
- Transfer macaroni mixture to baking dish.
- Sprinkle topping evenly over the macaroni and bake on middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes, or until light golden brown and bubbling.