I can't say that macaroni and cheese is my favorite meal. I know some people are fanatic about it, and absolutely lose their minds over who has the best homemade dish. Sure, I can enjoy a little scoop on the side, and of course I have had many a boxed meal as a kid, but on the whole it's not one of my absolute faves.
Lately, I have started to re-evaluate foods that I previously thought were disgusting or maybe just okay. I have been buying the things that I would normally avoid and have been cooking them in a way that appeals to my own senses. For many years, I thought eggplant was slimy and disgusting. Come to find out that the person who first cooked it for me, simply picked a bad eggplant and then cooked it to death. Deady, dead, dead, Death. No wonder I thought I hated it. I bit the bullet, found a recipe that sounded reliable and gave eggplant a whirl. We all loved it.
So while I don't hate mac 'n' cheese, I wondered if just noodles and cheese couldn't use a little improvement. I'm no chef, but the results kind of surprised us all. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think of it.
Look! Even the cold leftovers are delicious! (Not that I took a giant mouthful of cold noodles. Nope I didn't. Yes I did.)
1 small to medium white onion - minced
2 ham steaks - cubed
3 to 4 slices of bacon - minced
2 to 4 marinated artichoke hearts - chopped
3 cups shredded cheddar (set aside 1 cup for cheese sauce)
1 cup shredded asiago (set aside 1/3 cup for topping)
Italian bread crumbs
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni noodles
3 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 tsp. powdered garlic
1 tsp. hot sauce (I use Frank's)
1 tsp. mustard
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Preheat your oven to 375° F. In a pan brown the ham, bacon and onions with a pat of butter until caramelized then transfer to a very large bowl. Boil the macaroni noodles to not quite al dente - leave them a little harder than you would like to eat them. Drain completely and also add to the large bowl.
Start your cheese sauce: In a sauce pan over medium heat whisk the butter and flour. You are starting a basic béchamel sauce. When it is smooth and bubbly slowy begin to whisk in the milk. Whisk until it is smooth and thick, then you may add in the 1 cup of the cheddar and other ingredients of sauce except the whipping cream. Add the cream once all of the cheddar is fully melted. The sauce should be nice and creamy but not too thick.
In the large bowl toss the remaining shredded cheese and artichokes with the sautéed ingredients, noodles and the cheese sauce. Transfer to a large casserole dish. I used my 2 1/2 qt. oval Corningware dish and it fit perfectly. Sprinkle the 1/3 cup of asiago that was set aside over the top and then sprinkle a generous amount of bread crumbs to completely cover. Salt and Pepper to taste.
Bake uncovered in the oven for 45 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Serve and enjoy!