Cooking with Ceci: A fun spin on mac and cheese

Mac and cheese made for a good family meal with a teenager back at home. (Photo by Ceci Martinez)

Mac and cheese made for a good family meal with a teenager back at home. (Photo by Ceci Martinez)

Commentary by Ceci Martinez

Our freshman college son came to visit for the winter break and my husband and I were so much looking forward to this special family moment. We all know that spending quality time with teens means you have to make an appointment in their busy social schedule; so we found a way … and it was in the kitchen! I asked my son to show us what he can cook. The challenge required: choose a menu, buy the ingredients and cook (made the big mistake of not adding cleaning to the list! – I realized afterwards that it was fun to tidy up the mess all together!) This was a wonderful and fun way to connect with him and for sure we will always remember the closeness and joy from this special time!


Serves: 5 to 6


1 pound elbow macaroni (or other small pasta shape)

2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for bread topping

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon ground mustard

3 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for topping

1/3 cup fresh or dried plain bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a baking dish. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add pasta and broccoli. Cook until pasta is al dente. Drain pasta and broccoli, return to the pot. Meanwhile, put a saucepan over medium heat, add seven tablespoons of butter, once melted, stir in the flour. Cook stirring continuously for one minute. Pour in milk in a slow stream, whisking constantly to prevent scorching.  Reduce heat to low, add mustard and cheddar cheese, whisk until most of the cheese has melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the sauce and one cup parmigiano to pasta, mixing to coat pasta evenly. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, melt remaining two tablespoons of butter. Stir in the bread crumbs and scatter them over the top. Grate a little more cheese over the top. Bake until the sauce is bubbly, top is golden brown and crispy, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for five minutes, before serving. Accompany with a salad.


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