I give a lot of thought to hoping scientists will invent a pill we can swallow that keeps us full and gives everyone the nutrients they need. A lot of that thinking is done while trying to plan dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy eating dinner even preparing and cooking it doesn’t bother me and a solo trip to the supermarket is as close to me-time as I get some-days. But the planning…. Ugh. I know there are countless downloadable meal chart planners and handy apps that will practically order the ingredients for delivery for your door, but they’re just not my thing. I’m not the most versatile of eaters and certainly have my preferences, but when you throw kids into the mix (hubby eats whatever is put in front of him) it’s a Gargantuan task to try and put a dinner on the table everyone will enjoy.
The kids love pasta, anything pasta is a firm favourite. I am not a fan of white creamy sauces and generally prefer to stick to tomato based recipes. So we have a few options there, but I was worried we’d all turn into bolognese if I didn’t source another plan.
So I decided I’d give macaroni and cheese another go. Years ago I dutifully followed a recipe and it didn’t end well. I have since bought a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese from the shop beside my office that stocks US products, and while the others weren’t so keen, I liked it.
If you’re on the other side of the pond (that’s me being very optimistic about readership!) you’ll wonder what on earth I’m talking about, Mac & Cheese is a family staple and is hardly going to revolutionise dinner time in your home! But here in Ireland, as adults raised on meat and two veg, such a thing was only heard about on American Sitcoms and kids shows.
I tweaked a few recipes I found on-line and have found a winning combination (for my family at least). It is quick, simple and delicious. Both the 5 year old and toddler have finished their portions and ASKED FOR MORE! And even all that was eaten!
BAKED MACARONI & CHEESE
250g macaroni pasta (Tesco sell a macaroni shape in their own range but really any pasta shape will do)
200g grated cheese (I have read that using a different mix of cheese gives a better flavour, and the sharper the better. I have been using bags of mixed grated cheese)
20g plain flour
salt & black pepper
- Boil the pasta as per instructions (I have used the measurement of 250g but you can amend this to whatever portion size you want).
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and then stir in the flour to create a paste.
- Pour in the milk and bring to a gentle simmering boil. Leave this for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt and black pepper. Some people add mustard powder, but I didn’t have any so can’t comment!
- Take the milk mixture off the heat and stir in the cheese – keep a handful aside to top the dish.
- When all the cheese has melted in, mix the drained pasta and cheese sauce.
- Pour into an oven-proof dish and top with breadcrumbs and cheese (my kids love the crunch top so I overdo this part).
- Bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes, until the top is nice and golden.
And enjoy! It freezes well too, so I always have some child size portions on hand when some comfort food is needed.