When I lived in NYC, I lived just blocks from a restaurant called Fetch. And aside from super cute doggy-decor, Fetch had one really amazing thing to offer.
Individual baked macaroni and cheese.
Oh, and they delivered.
So basically, during my last month in NYC I had Fetch mac and cheese once a week, at least. I think that you think that I’m kidding when I say “at least” but I assure you that I am not. I would order Sunday night when I got back from CT and then by Wednesday I’d have another craving for it. I’m fairly certain that this is because (as you may have inferred from the title) it was laced with crack. There is no other reason for how addicting this mac and cheese was. But it wasn’t just a lack of self control that led me to order multiple times a week. Oh no, it was for more noble reasons. It was to see if I could crack the secret of Fetch’s recipe! And I think I’ve finally done it. Thanks to this recipe (with my notes in parentheses and red type). All photos in this post were taken by me during the cooking process.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (I use the whole pound. And I use Mezze Penne…it’s super yummy!)
3 tablespoons butter (To Fetch-ify it, I add fresh parsley and thyme as well as a bit of garlic powder. Fetch makes their mac and cheese with their really amazing lemony-herb butter and the herbs really brighten it up!)
1/4 cup flour
3 cups (skim) milk (I use Lactaid milk. It doesn’t affect the sauce…just makes it a little easier on the tummy!)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard (I never measure this, just squeeze until it looks right to me)
A couple dashes worcestershire sauce (ditto for this)
1/2 teaspoon paprika (and for this)
12 ounces sharp cheddar or other cheeses, shredded (shred it yourself, it’s way better. And use extra sharp cheddar. Like black diamond triple extra sharp. TRUST ME! I also add a handful of a Parmesan/Asiago blend; since it doesn’t fully melt, it keeps everything gooey and delicious!)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup panko bread crumbs
(I usually just Italian seasoned bread crumbs. They make it more Fetch-like!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta in heavily salted, boiling water until al dente (be careful about over-cooking b/c the pasta will cook a bit more in the oven), as directed on the pasta box. When done, drain (don’t rinse), set aside in a medium casserole dish, and toss with a little butter, so the pasta doesn’t stick together.
Melt 3 tbs. butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add flour and mix into the butter with a whisk. Cook for a few minutes over medium-low heat to cook the floury taste out.
Increase heat to medium and slowly add milk a little at a time, whisking to incorporate. Go slowly, adding 1/4 cup at a time at first, whisking continuously, and then 1/2 a cup at a time, so that the flour has a chance to absorb the liquid and your sauce will be smooth. (It will look like paste and get really glumpy and you will freak out. MOVE THROUGH THAT. It will pass and the sauce will smooth out, I promise!)
Add paprika, mustard, worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in cheeses. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Add pasta to the sauce and mix together. It should be saucy. Add the pasta and sauce to the casserole dish. (I just pour the pasta straight into the casserole dish to begin with and then mix it in the dish.)
Melt a tbs. of butter in the microwave in a bowl. Add panko breadcrumbs and stir until coated. Spread panko mixture evenly over pasta.
Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until it’s browned on top and bubbling on the edges. If it’s bubbling but not fully browned, you can put the dish under the broiler to quickly brown the top.
Oh yes, that’s the stuff!
Dinner is served. But don’t kid yourselves–this is just round one. We always go back for seconds!