Easiest Baked Mac and Cheese

Like most children, I grew up eating mac-and-cheese on a pretty regular basis.  My grandmother would pick me up from school a couple days a week and bring me back to their house, where she would serve me a heaping bowl of bubbling, cheesy goodness.  I’d climb up onto the chair with my Sesame Street fork (which, unfortunately, is not pictured here) and dig in.  It’s one of those childhood memories that has always lingered and, as a result, every time I eat mac-and-cheese, I feel like a kid again.

I found it interesting to learn that mac-and-cheese actually dates back to medieval times, when it was called Makerouns, which consisted of pasta mixed with butter and cheese.  During this time, many believed that cheese aided digestion, so it was consumed frequently (I’m sure many of you would disagree with this).  Unfortunately, since that time mac-and-cheese has developed into something entirely different.  Sure it’s cheesy and can, after a night at the bar, be quite delicious.  But the packaged kind  is highly processed and has none of the same characteristics to make it the comfort food I grew up with.

This recipe came to my attention via Smitten Kitchen.  Eric and I throw a BBQ in the middle of winter every year and, in need of a little help, we went over to SK for some suggestions while planning last year’s menu.  I found not just one, but three recipes from Deb’s catalog that were perfect for the occasion.  But the hit of the evening was this “Easiest Baked Mac-and-Cheese.”

But, really, how can you go wrong when you are following a 2:1 cheese-to-pasta ratio (not to mention the addition of cottage cheese, milk, and butter)?  This is comfort food to the nth degree… just what you want to make and consume on a brutal, blizzardy day.  No doubt about it, THIS will put a big grin on your face.

Easiest Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat)

2 cups milk (not skim)

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Pinch cayenne

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I’m a big fan of Cabot extra-sharp, in the purple wrapper)

1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked.

Directions

1. Heat oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use one tablespoon butter to grease a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

2. In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together.* Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

3. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned.

4. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

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  • Lemons and AnchoviesJanuary 18, 2011 - 5:04 am

    What a coincidence–I've got a mac and cheese post up now, too. It was my first time making it, though. The cottage cheese is a really good idea–will keep it in mind for next time. Looks delish! :-)ReplyCancel

  • ShulieJanuary 18, 2011 - 5:10 am

    Do you know that S will love this, cause the couple of times I attempted it he said it's too fancy and not like at his friends houses. lol I think it's best if you send him some he is only couple of hours away from Boston.ReplyCancel

  • MonetJanuary 18, 2011 - 5:25 am

    What a great recipe (I'm glad that you specified not to use the low-fat and skim varieties of dairy…this is mac and cheese, folks!) I remember the first time I added cottage cheese to my recipe…it was heavenly. I can't wait to give this variety a try! Thank you for sharing another great dish, sweet man. I hope that you have a wonderful Tuesday filled with love and good eating!ReplyCancel

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the KitchenJanuary 18, 2011 - 11:37 am

    I love that you you don't need to start with a roux like for most mac and cheese recipes and that you don't even need to cook the pasta first! Doesn't get any easier than that.ReplyCancel

  • Jeanne @ CookSisterJanuary 18, 2011 - 12:02 pm

    Easy peasy lemon squeezy!! Every time I mace Mac 'n Cheese i marvel at how easy it really is to achieve maximum comfort food satisfaction without going down the Kraft route… And btw why do you tease us with the Sesame Street fork if we can't see it? No fair! ;o)ReplyCancel

  • Belinda @zomppaJanuary 18, 2011 - 12:22 pm

    What a great mac and cheese. Bet it was even better with that spoon. =)ReplyCancel

  • AnnieJanuary 18, 2011 - 12:40 pm

    This recipe looks so easy and delicious! I have used cottage cheese in mac and cheese before and it adds such a creamy flavor. I think that this is better than the recipe I used though. My son and husband would love this!ReplyCancel

  • Fun and Fearless in BeantownJanuary 18, 2011 - 1:01 pm

    This mac and cheese looks super easy! I can't wait to see what else you cooked up for your winter BBQ!ReplyCancel

  • Lael Hazan @educatedpalateJanuary 18, 2011 - 1:06 pm

    Our youngest, 7, simply adores Mac & Cheese. She once asked her father to make it. He replied, "but I do". She said, "no, you make pasta solo pasta (Pasta with butter and cheese), not mac & cheese".
    There is something so comforting about it prepared this way.ReplyCancel

  • Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.January 18, 2011 - 1:06 pm

    Looks fabulous! My kids will love this oneReplyCancel

  • kitaJanuary 18, 2011 - 1:27 pm

    This looks so good right now. Comforting and warm. Theres ice falling from the sky and its only 8:30 in the morning but I could use a spoonful of that mac-and-cheese.ReplyCancel

  • Sprinkles of ParsleyJanuary 18, 2011 - 1:42 pm

    Gorgeous photos! This looks delicious and true comfort food in a dish. I have yet to make mac and cheese this winter, but this post has inspired me!ReplyCancel

  • RJ FlamingoJanuary 18, 2011 - 1:45 pm

    Nom! I love to change up my mac & cheese all the time, and I've been leaning toward a creamier style lately. But this? You don't even have to cook the macaroni, first? Awesome!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousJanuary 18, 2011 - 1:56 pm

    Your mac and cheese is yummy but you forgot to mrntion that a part of your lunch was my reading Popcorn book to you !!!!
    NannyReplyCancel

  • danasfoodforthoughtJanuary 18, 2011 - 1:59 pm

    Oh my goodness my mouth is watering. This looks like cheesey carby goodness. I bet the nutmeg would add such a great flavor to this. Sort of like the flavors in bechemel sauce. You should try it next time… I know I will!ReplyCancel

  • bunkycooksJanuary 18, 2011 - 2:51 pm

    Mac and cheese truly is a great comfort food! I used to make a version with cottage cheese many years ago. It was quite good, so I will have to give this recipe a try on one of these cold days!ReplyCancel

  • ElianaJanuary 18, 2011 - 2:55 pm

    It doesn't get better than a good baked mac n cheese and this one looks perfect. I wish I could eat it right off the screen!ReplyCancel

  • MelissaJanuary 18, 2011 - 3:04 pm

    Yummm this looks so good right now! Never used cottage cheese in mac & cheese!ReplyCancel

  • chadizzeJanuary 18, 2011 - 3:24 pm

    That looks simply yum! I think I have just found what's going to be for dinner tonight! It's a cold rainy day, perfect for comfort food! I love the idea of adding cottage cheese. Can't wait to try this out!!ReplyCancel

  • Chef DennisJanuary 18, 2011 - 3:49 pm

    cottage cheese is an interesting additon to this wonerful dish! I do love macaroni and cheese my friend…..I have to tell you, I do have this menal image of you with your sesame street fork now!
    Cheers
    DennisReplyCancel

  • Bianca @ Confessions of a ChocoholicJanuary 18, 2011 - 3:59 pm

    I love cottage cheese in mac and cheese (and lasagna). I had to do a double take when I read "pour uncooked pasta into pan" That is awesome!!ReplyCancel

  • ElJanuary 18, 2011 - 5:02 pm

    There is nothing like mac and cheese on a cold winters day. Gorgeous post!ReplyCancel

  • Evan @swEEtsJanuary 18, 2011 - 5:31 pm

    Now this looks like something I would live to have this afternoon for lunch and then later on for dinner.. sounds delicious! Love mac and cheese!ReplyCancel

  • Cake DuchessJanuary 18, 2011 - 5:38 pm

    My mom always makes us cottage cheese noodles. I like how you made your mac and cheese with cottage cheese. Yum!! Looks divine!ReplyCancel

  • katJanuary 18, 2011 - 5:48 pm

    I grew up with homemade mac & cheese & love it still to this day! Funny I've never had it with cottage cheese though.ReplyCancel

  • sara @ CaffeInaJanuary 18, 2011 - 6:40 pm

    I never ate a mac&cheese from the box as I'm not American, but I would totally eat your homemade mac&cheese…right now!ReplyCancel

  • SMITH BITESJanuary 18, 2011 - 7:53 pm

    Brian my dear friend, you are upping your game here and i've gotta say that i'm LOVIN' IT!! I'm just the reverse though, Mac n Cheese DID come from a box when i was growing up and i didn't have anything like this until i was an adult and made it myself!ReplyCancel

  • The Daily PaletteJanuary 18, 2011 - 8:10 pm

    What a wonderful recipe and gorgeous photos as always. I will have to make this soon since I have an 8-year old all-American boy. Thanks, Brian!ReplyCancel

  • Andrew FrishmanJanuary 18, 2011 - 8:17 pm

    Mmnn. . . I LOVES me some mac especially when it's the cheese!

    Yo soy el queso grande.ReplyCancel

  • ElleJanuary 18, 2011 - 8:53 pm

    Yep–this put a big grin on MY face! Love mac and cheese.ReplyCancel

  • Spicie FoodieJanuary 18, 2011 - 10:26 pm

    This is a heavenly looking and sounding Mac & Cheese! I've never tried it with cottage cheese but that sounds so good. Your are so right the boxed junk is just that junk and it doesn't even compare to real homemade or baked Mac & Cheese. Thanks for sharing it put a big grin on my face too:)ReplyCancel

  • Barbara | VinoLuciStyleJanuary 18, 2011 - 10:51 pm

    I love Mac and Cheese and if I'm honest? I could actually scarf down Kraft when I made it for my kids (Yes, yes I did.) But I love the notion of cottage cheese and though our ingredients differ, it's the basis for what I still call Emily and Lauren's Mac and Cheese; their all time favorite!ReplyCancel

  • TiffanyJanuary 18, 2011 - 11:11 pm

    Oh yes, mac and cheese was a STAPLE in our household growing up! This recipe looks great!ReplyCancel

  • penny aka jeroxieJanuary 19, 2011 - 1:25 am

    Great comfort food. And even better when it is easyReplyCancel

  • Angie's RecipesJanuary 19, 2011 - 6:19 am

    wow that does look easy and quick to prepare!ReplyCancel

  • JoanneJanuary 19, 2011 - 12:25 pm

    This looks so good I could cry. I grew up on homemade mac and cheese that my mom made with American. Really. American. It was so bad, it was good.

    And since then, I've never been able to eat the boxed stuff. Ew.

    This looks perfect though. A step above the mac and cheese my mom used to make but still hitting all those comfort food cravings. Love it.ReplyCancel

  • MeetaKJanuary 19, 2011 - 12:29 pm

    I have to let you in on a secret – growing up I never liked mac-and-cheese and although Soeren loves his pasta mac-and-cheese is also not his thing either. BUT – wow I love what you have done with this: cottage cheese (not low fat – I mean PLEASE who buys the low fat stuff?), mustard, cayenne and nutmeg – absolutely love it!ReplyCancel

  • JacquelynJanuary 19, 2011 - 5:58 pm

    This seems REALLY easy- love that! I can't wait to try it. We're big fans of Cabot, too :) Thanks for your support! The farm families who own Cabot appreciate it!
    ~JacquelynReplyCancel

  • Red HamsterJanuary 19, 2011 - 6:34 pm

    The perfect food for my cold Midwestern winters! Yes, my digestive system doesn't love cheese as much as it used to, but I can handle good-quality REAL cheese; I'll have to check out Cabot extra-sharp.

    I'm going to add that freshly grated nutmeg too; thanks for the suggestion. :-)ReplyCancel

  • madebyfrances.comJanuary 19, 2011 - 9:27 pm

    with another boston snow storm possible for friday, I definitely could use some mac and cheese as hibernation food.ReplyCancel

  • Feeling FoodJanuary 19, 2011 - 10:40 pm

    Love your photography and macaroni is an absolute all time favourite, will be trying this recipe out for sure. I write a food blog too – pls check it out if you get a mo! http://bit.ly/bOdHX0 I have a FB page to, the link is on the blog, it would be good to connect and share more recipes!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa {Authentic Suburban Gourmet }January 20, 2011 - 3:29 am

    Boy that looks so incredibly mouthwatering. I did not Gravitate to Mac and Cheese as a kid. However as an adult I LOVE it. Adding the cottage cheese to the recipe was a suprize but I bet it made it really tasty! A must try!!ReplyCancel

  • CristinaJanuary 20, 2011 - 9:01 pm

    This looks like a great recipe, Brian. Can't go wrong serving mac and cheese for any get-together. It's always a sure crowd pleaser. I like the use of cottage cheese in this recipe.ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey @ Gingerbread BagelsJanuary 21, 2011 - 2:45 am

    The story of you as a child eating mac and cheese with your sesame street fork brought a smile to my face. What a sweet memory :)
    This has to be the most gorgeous mac and cheese I've seen. You definitely are a talented photographer!
    I just love the addition of cottage cheese, what a great idea. I'm definitely going to be trying this recipe. :)ReplyCancel

  • Island VittlesJanuary 21, 2011 - 5:39 am

    This is too easy not to try ;) Thanks for sharing! TheresaReplyCancel

  • LirenJanuary 21, 2011 - 6:53 am

    Fascinating tidbit about the recipe's history! Who would have thought this comfort food could be so ancient! Love the cottage cheese- what a great way to lighten it up!ReplyCancel

  • JackieJanuary 23, 2011 - 11:57 pm

    I've yet to find a mac & cheese recipe I really like, but I'll have to give this one a try and let you know my verdict! It looks delish, so we'll see ;)

    Jax xReplyCancel

  • RosyJanuary 26, 2011 - 5:42 pm

    I love the crust on that mac & cheese photo. Perfect! Mac N Cheese is my absolute favorite comfort food. Great job.ReplyCancel

  • Mike JohnsonFebruary 12, 2011 - 11:37 pm

    Nice!! Love the char on top.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa LohApril 17, 2011 - 4:48 am

    I’ve tried this recipe twice now and it’s deliciously simple. Perfect for how cool our weather on the southern hemisphere is getting these days. Thanks for sharing the recipe!ReplyCancel

  • Candace KaruAugust 18, 2011 - 3:39 pm

    Under the guise of doing “research” I came across your Macaroni & Cheese recipe. I have it printed for the first cool day…which here in Maine might be very soon! Love your photos, too, BTW.ReplyCancel

  • PaulApril 8, 2012 - 9:00 am

    WOW! This is my mother’s recipe from long ago – and long ago lost. Thanks for helping me reclaim a piece of my childhood.ReplyCancel

  • CocoAugust 30, 2012 - 1:18 pm

    I’m a little skeptical about putting cottage cheese in my mac but I’m going to try this anyway. It looks way too good to pass up!ReplyCancel

  • CocoAugust 30, 2012 - 1:30 pm

    And how did you get that browning on the top? Did you broil it when it was almost done?ReplyCancel

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