Recipe: Cheddar Lover’s Hearty Macaroni and Cheese

Autumn is definitely making itself known here in Ireland. Whilst I fear the end of my gardening season grows ever nearer, it does mean that I can welcome my favourite months of the year with some tasty casseroles and cool weather treats.

Cheese is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine but after over-buying for a recent party I found myself with the better part of 2 kg of grated cheddar to get rid of. Having run out of friends I could push cheese on, I’ve had to get creative to find ways of using it up, short of simply sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, shoving fistfuls of cheddar into my face and/or throwing it at the cats whilst giggling (and believe me, the thought has crossed my mind more than once).

This macaroni dish is not for the faint hearted, and certainly not for more than an occasional treat, at nearly 700 calories per serving. It IS however utterly delicious and a great way of getting rid of not only left over cheese, but any Sunday meat and veg leftovers, as it’s a flexible and forgiving recipe.

Feel free to substitute the sprouts for another vegetable. Squashes would probably work very well in this recipe. I just happen to love sprouts (yes, I’m one of THOSE people).

If you wanted to reduce the amount of cheese or desire a crispier topping, substitute breadcrumbs or crispy onions for the cheese topping.

Cheddar Lover’s Hearty Macaroni and Cheese

Did I mention how much I love cheese?
Did I mention how much I love cheese?

Time: 45 minutes including baking

Serves 4 generously – Approx. 670 calories per serving*

You will need:

  • 400g dried macaroni
  • 1 cup steamed broccoli florets
  • 1.5 cups steamed Brussel sprouts, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups of semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 tbsp chives
  • 3 cups light cheddar
  • 1 cup cooked ham, cubed
  • 5 strips crispy streaky rashers

Method:

  1.  Cook the pasta according to the directions on the packaging. Whilst the pasta is boiling, steam the broccoli florets and Brussel sprouts.
  2. When the pasta is cooked, drain it thoroughly and rinse well with warm water. You don’t want any starch remaining on the pasta as this will cause your sauce to go gloopy in the oven.
  3. After you have drained the pasta start the sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Whisk together briskly until the butter and flour have formed a smooth paste. Add the milk, chives and spices, whisking continuously until the milk thickens into a silky sauce.
  4. As soon as the milk mixture reaches sauce consistency, remove it from the heat and add 2 cups of the cheddar. Stir briskly until the cheese has melted into the sauce.
  5. Pour the drained and rinsed pasta, vegetables and ham into a bowl and pour the warm cheese sauce over top. Mix well and pour into a deep casserole dish (I used a 6 x 9 to get a nice, deep casserole).
  6. Top with the remaining cheese and crumble the rashers over top.
  7. Bake in a 180*C (360*F) oven for 25 minutes or until the cheese on the top is melted and browning gently.

I would recommend serving this with a nice side salad, as there will be very little room for anything else.

*This will of course vary slightly depending on the cheese and other ingredients used.
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