You see, where I'm from, there is a little place we like to call "Mike's Farm," and beknownst- the opposite of unbeknownst- to every single living soul in the state of North Carolina, they have the undisputed, absolute, hands-down best Macaroni and Cheese on the face of this planet (and the universe, assuming that Mars is not known for its award-winning mac and cheese.)
The first time I tried their Mac and Cheese, I believe I was seven or eight years old. It rocked my world as much as a spoonful of deliciousness can rock a little seven-year-old's life, and I was forever changed. From that moment on, I devoted the rest of my life to developing a recipe that was just as good, if not better, than theirs. I slaved in the kitchen with my boxes of pasta, my gently warmed water, and my easy bake oven, trying again and again to recreate the masterpiece which I had discovered at Ye 'Olde Mike's Farm.
Finally, twelve years later, I have found it. I innocently walked into the kitchen the other night and saw a box of unopened pasta on the counter. It was calling me (I'm being serious guys, I don't joke about these things), and I knew it was time. It was time for a change, it was time for success, it was time... for Cheese and Macaroni.
While that entire story may or may not have been a complete and utter lie, there really is a place called Mike's Farm with delicious Mac and Cheese, and I may have tried to recreate it once or twice and
failed miserably it didn't turn out so well.
But I have found success! Finally... This recipe is gold, definitely a keeper!
This is a fairly simple recipe, just boil the pasta, mix the sauce, and combine. Just make sure to not overbake! Dry Cheese and Macaroni is not a good thing.
By the way, I named it Cheese and Macaroni because the cheese proudly takes center stage in this recipe. It's about time someone gave cheese the attention it deserves, without it, it would just be... Macaroni (actually in this case it would just be rigatoni, considering that is the pasta I used.)
Creamy Baked Cheese and Mac
serves: 8-12, depending on portion sizes.
time prep and cook: 40 minutes
1 16 oz. box pasta (I used rigatoni, but macaroni will work fine)
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 pkg. cream cheese
1 cup milk
1 tsp. paprika
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbs. salt
1/4 pkg. saltines, crushed
1/4 pkg. saltines, for sprinkling on top
**Note: for a lightened version, use light mayo, sour cream, cream cheese, and milk. I have used those and it was just as delicious!
1. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Make sure to salt water really well before boiling. It gives the noodles a nice flavor. (I use about 1/2 Tbs. salt for a 16 oz. box.)
2. While the noodles are boiling, prepare the sauce.
3. Mix together shredded cheddar, mayo, sour cream, cream cheese, milk, eggs, paprika, Dijon mustard, salt, and half of crackers (Reserve the other half.).
4. Once the noodles are done, drain and rinse with cold water. Drain really well.
5. After cooling the noodles, combine with the sauce and spread into a well-greased 9x13 casserole dish (you can use a larger or smaller one depending on how thick you want it to be. Adjust the cook time accordingly.)
6. Top with other 1/4 package of crushed saltines. I used my fingers to kind of mix them in with some of the sauce mixture on top so they didn't dry out.
7. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until the middle is firm and a toothpick comes out fairly clean (but perhaps slightly cheesy.)