21st-Century Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I used to get emails weekly or so from public radio’s (The Splendid Table) Lynne Rossetto Kasper, each with a yummy-sounding recipe. I saved a few of them to try, and this is one of them. This came together in no time, and it was pretty good. Liam doesn’t like macaroni and cheese (!), but he said he liked this one. Toby had 3 servings! I thought it was good, although I don’t know what I think about onions in mac-and-cheese. I am not sure if I like that crunch.

rating: 8.7

21st-Century Mac ‘n’ Cheese
(by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift)

Serves 4, and doubles easily
8 to 10 minutes prep time; 30 minutes oven time


3 quarts salted water in a 4-quart pot
1/2 pound (2 cups) imported elbow macaroni or penne pasta
1 large egg
1 cup milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream (I used half-and-half)
1 small garlic clove
3/4 medium onion, coarse chopped
1 generous cup (5 ounces) shredded good-quality extra-sharp cheddar cheese
5 ounces cream cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyère, Appenzeller, or Manchego cheese (I used Gruyere)
Generous 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Generous 1/8 teaspoon salt
Generous 1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
Generous 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika, Hungarian or Spanish
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 saltines, coarse crumbled


1. Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop in the macaroni or penne. Boil, stirring often, until the pasta is tender but still with a little firmness. Drain in a colander.
2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a shallow 1-1/2-quart baking dish, and add the cooked macaroni.
3. In a blender or food processor, combine the egg, milk, and garlic. Process for 3 seconds. Add the onion, cheeses, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, and paprika, and blend for 10 seconds, or until the onion is cut down to small pieces and the ingredients are blended. Turn the mixture into the dish, folding it into the macaroni. (The casserole could be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours at this point.)
4. To bake, bring the casserole close to room temperature if it has been refrigerated. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the saltine crumbles, and coat them with the butter. Spread them over the top of the casserole. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until thick yet creamy. If the top is not golden brown, slip the casserole under the broiler for a minute. Remove it from the oven, let it stand for 5 minutes, and serve.

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