Recipe: Baked Cornbread Mac and Cheese

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Sometimes you just have some leftover cornbread muffins in your freezer from the time you made chili. Know what I mean, guys? Anyway, crumbling cornbread on top of homemade mac and cheese and baking it in the oven until golden brown and crispy was the smartest choice I’ve ever made. 

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I really like vegetables, so I couldn’t leave a macaroni and cheese recipe alone without adding a bunch of broccoli (two bunches actually) and sautéed mushrooms.

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I wanted to cook the vegetables before they went in the oven with the mac and cheese to make sure they didn’t end up weird and crunchy. For the broccoli, I added about an inch of water to the bottom of a pot with the broccoli that I chopped, and steamed it for about 10 minutes that way. For the mushrooms, I sliced them and sautéed them in a pan for a few minutes (until they shrunk like a Shrinky Dink).

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For the sauce, the key is to stir stir stir and keep stirring as you add the ingredients. I was video-chatting with my sister while I was cooking and I kept getting distracted and it was almost a disaster, but it wasn’t! And it turned out super great and delicious.

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As I said, I made these corn muffins last week to go with some chili that we made. They turned out very well, but we’re only two people and a tiny dog in this house, so we haven’t eaten many of them. This recipe was a great way to repurpose them.

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We really liked this dinner, and I think it will make many great leftovers meals for the week. The cornbread adds some sweetness and crunch that pairs wonderfully with the salty gooeyness of the noodles and sauce. The key is to make sure you use enough salt. I don’t have a measurement for it, but you have to just add it a little at a time and taste it.


1 pound box of pasta

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups shredded cheese

2 small heads of broccoli

1 pounds container of mushrooms

2 medium-sized corn muffins (I made mine using this recipe)


First, cook the pasta as directed and set aside. Chop the broccoli to a desired size, and steam in about an inch of water in a pot until it turns a vibrant green and is softened (about 10 minutes). Slice the mushrooms and sauté them in a bit of olive oil until they shrink (about 5 minutes). Mix the cooked vegetables and the cooked pasta and set it aside.

For the sauce, first melt the butter in a pan, and then stir in the flour. The flour is what thickens the sauce. Then, pour in the milk slowly, stirring the whole time. You can add some salt and pepper now, but you’ll probably have to add more salt later, when the sauce is almost finished. Keep stirring so it doesn’t get clumpy, and cook for a few minutes, until it starts to bubble and boil a little. It will get noticeably thicker. Next, add in the shredded cheese, maybe a cup at a time so you don’t get a giant chunk of melted cheese in there that you have to deal with. Stir until melty and totally incorporated. If it looks like cheese sauce, it means you did it right. If it looks like the kind of cheese sauce you get from a box of Kraft, something has gone horribly awry.

Taste the sauce and add salt until it tastes like you got it at a restaurant. Then, you can either mix the pasta and vegetables into the pot of sauce (which is what I did) or you can pour the sauce over the stuff and mix it that way, but my baking pan was too small for that. I used a rectangular cake pan that I don’t know the dimensions of, but probably around 12″x 9″, and it all just fit. Finally, I sprinkled some extra shredded cheese on top, and then crumble my corn muffins over it. I baked it at 400 degrees (F) for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and beautiful.

 

Until next time,

Spencer

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