It’s big talk today – the yearly list of Oprah’s Favorite Things is always full of deliciousness, and this year is no exception. Yesterday she dished about her favorite Mac & Cheese – also on the 2010 list: A Course in Weight Loss by best-selling author Marianne Williamson, a panini press made by Breville (available at Williams-Sonoma), Baker’s Edge Baking Pans and Ghirardelli Brownie Mix. Her mac & cheese of choice? Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac ‘N’ Cheese, made with aged cow’s milk cheese and creamy Jack cheese, it’s shipped frozen, so all you need to do is toss it in the oven until hot and bubbly. Of course, it’s not all food and fun kitchen toys on the list…
If you’re looking for gift ideas, check out the whole list of Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010, and you can even peruse some of her past favorite things.
If you can’t get your hands on Beecher’s “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese, you can make your own from scratch – mac and cheese that doesn’t come out of a box is something everyone should be able to make. It doesn’t require much more time or effort than KD, and is the ultimate in comfort food. Experiment by adding different cheeses intensely flavored ones such as Gruyère or blue cheese are best. It’s a great way to get rid of leftover cheese bits you might have lurking in the fridge.
Baked Macaroni & Cheese
1/2 lb. (250 g) dry macaroni, whole wheat rotini, small shells or other pasta
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2-3 cups grated old cheddar cheese, or any combination of cheeses you have in the fridge
Bread Crumb Topping (optional):
2 slices sandwich bread (preferably whole wheat), torn into pieces
2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil or melted butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until it’s tender but not mushy. Drain well in a colander and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
In the empty pot (no need to wash it out), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir well with a whisk, cooking for a minute or so until the mixture starts to turn golden. Stir in the milk and bring the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly. The sauce must reach a full boil in order for the flour to reach its full thickening potential. Reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes, until the mixture is nice and thick.
Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts. Add salt to taste, then stir in the drained pasta. If you want a bread crumb topping, pulse the bread, butter and Parmesan in a food processor until the bread turns to crumbs and the mixture is well blended. Pour the macaroni and cheese into an appropriately sized baking dish and top with the bread crumbs or additional cheese. (It can be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated in the baking dish; sprinkle with the crumb mixture or cheese right before you bake it.) Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the topping is golden and it’s bubbly around the edges.