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Make Ahead Macaroni and Cheese

To freeze, transfer the macaroni and cheese to a buttered 9-by-13-inch freezer-to-oven baking dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Bake, frozen and covered with foil, at 350°F, for 1 hour. Uncover, top with the bread cubes and bake until the topping is golden, about 20 minutes longer.

Ingredients:

  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk, heated
  • 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 oz. shredded fontina cheese
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 Tbs. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1 lb. macaroni, shell or penne pasta
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh coarse bread crumbs from 4 slices country-style white bread

Directions:

Prepare the sauce
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Butter four 1-cup individual ramekins or a 3-quart freezer-to-oven baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt 6 Tbs. of the butter. Add the flour, a little at a time, whisking to incorporate. Increase the heat to medium and very gradually whisk in the heated milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and creamy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the cheddar, fontina and mustard and whisk until the cheese is melted. Set aside.

Cook the macaroni
Meanwhile, add the 2 Tbs. salt and the macaroni to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the pasta is not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain well.

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce and stir well. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the ramekins or baking dish. If freezing, set aside and let cool (see note above).

Bake the macaroni and cheese
In a fry pan over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter. Remove from the heat, add the bread crumbs and stir until coated. Sprinkle over the macaroni and cheese. Bake until the sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Make Ahead, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2008).