Best mac ‘n cheese with crisp, garlic breadcrumb topping. (to die for)

In preparation for Christmas dinner this year, I researched hundreds of mac ‘n cheese recipes with the only prerequisite being that ALL ages would love it, so nothing gimmicky, no strange flavors…
This recipe was a major hit with everyone and it’s well worth adding to your holiday cooking repertoire. The crispy garlicky breadcrumbs on top are also a wonderful addition.
I made it the day before, kept it in the fridge overnight, brought it to room temperature and baked it just before serving, so it really was easy.

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Serves 12

For the topping:
2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the macaroni and sauce:
14 oz dried elbow macaroni
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
16 oz coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (about 6 cups)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 1/2 tbsp English mustard powder

Special equipment:
9- by 13-inch baking dish

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in the middle of oven. Butter the baking dish. Set a large, covered pot of salted water over high heat to boil.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the butter and oil until the butter foam subsides. Add the panko crumbs and garlic; cook, stirring, until the crumbs are golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl, stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and salt, and set aside.

Add the macaroni to the boiling salted water and cook until just al dente (avoid overcooking). Drain the macaroni and set aside. In a large wide pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the butter, whisking to incorporate and make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the roux is light golden, about 4 minutes.

Gradually pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly to incorporate and make a béchamel sauce. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a low boil, whisking constantly. Reduce to a simmer, whisking occasionally, and cook until the béchamel sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes more.

Add the the salt, pepper and mustard powder. Add the cheeses in three batches, whisking until each addition is completely melted before adding more. Remove from the heat.

Add the drained macaroni to the pot with the cheese sauce and stir well to coat. Transfer the macaroni mixture to the buttered baking dish and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the macaroni and bake until golden and bubbling, 18 to 23 minutes.

Let cool 15 minutes before serving.


Cheesy Gnocchi with Ham and Peas

This is a great recipe for the family and easy to make. Taken from the Food Network show, it combines favorite flavors of children and adults alike. Served with a green salad, you have a lovely warming dinner.

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Serves 4

1 tbsp butter
1 good-sized onion, chopped
One 8 oz piece deli ham, diced
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup chicken broth
One 17.5 oz package potato gnocchi
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss, Gruyere cheese or sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the broiler to high heat.

Melt the butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat.
Add the onions and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add the ham and thyme and continue to cook until the ham is lightly browned.
Add the chicken broth and 3/4 cup water and bring to a simmer.
Add the gnocchi, stir well, cover and cook until the gnocchi is slightly tender, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Uncover and stir in the peas, cream, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
Sprinkle the cheese over the top and broil until golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Pappardelle with Brussels sprouts, leeks and truffle cream

Sauteed leeks with the earthy intensity of the truffle oil and the smooth creaminess of the cream is a heady combination. Make sure you don’t overdo the truffle oil, so start with a little less and add to taste.

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Serves 4

1/2 oz butter
1 large leek, well washed and sliced at an angle
7 oz Brussels sprouts, cut into 1/4″ slices
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/b fresh (preferably) Pappardelle pasta
4 fl oz dry white wine
2 oz good quality Parmesan cheese,finely grated
A large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp truffle oil
salt and pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.

In a wide pan, melt the butter and saute the leek, Brussels sprouts and garlic for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often over medium heat.
Drop the pasta into the pan of boiling water, stirring until the water comes back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes (or if you are using dry pasta, follow the packet’s instructions) until tender. Drain the pasta into a colander and shake off any excess water.

Meanwhile, add the white wine to the sprouts pan and cook for 2 minutes then add the cream.
Bring to the boil and simmer for a minutes.
Stir in the cheese, nutmeg, truffle oil and some salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Remove from the heat.
The sauce should be quite moist. Check for seasoning and strength of truffle flavor and adjust if necessary.

Divide the pasta between 4 warmed bowls and top with some of the vegetables and sauce.
Use tongs to combine the sauce and pasta and serve immediately.

Teriyaki salmon bowl with udon and spinach.

This is a delectable and light dish packed with flavor. It’s very low calorie and you’re going to love it!

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Serves 4

8 cups dashi broth (You can buy this ready made)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
1 knob fresh ginger (about 2 inch piece)
13 oz dried udon noodles
4 small salmon fillets, skinned
1 bunch spinach, washed
4 green onions, sliced on the diagonal

Teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp sugar

For the teriyaki sauce

Combine the dark soy, sake, mirin, oil and sugar in a small pot and heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
Heat the dashi in a second pot and add the soy and mirin. Peel the ginger, cut into cubes and crush in a garlic press to get 1 tbsp ginger juice. Add the juice to the broth and adjust the flavorings to taste.
Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes.Drain and rinse in cold water, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Brush the salmon with the teriyaki sauce and grill on a hot well oiled grill, or a heavy cast iron flat pan, leaving the inside lightly pink.
Bring the dashi broth to just below a boil and add the noodles to the broth for 30 seconds to heat through, then divide the noodles among 4 warmed bowls.
Dip the spinach leaves briefly into the broth to wilt them and distribute them among the bowls.
Ladle the hot broth into each bowl and top the noodles with the grilled salmon, broken into large chunks or left whole.
Scatter the green onions on top and serve with chopsticks and spoons.

Garlic noodles with mushrooms and miso butter

This is a wonderfully simple recipe from the food blog, “Steamy Kitchen” It’s worth signing up to them, as they have some super recipes with those lovely Asian flavors.
Use either Chinese egg noodles or thin spaghetti noodles.

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Serves 4
1/2 pound dry pasta or noodles of your choice
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 green onions (scallions), chopped
12 ounces fresh mushrooms of your choice
2 tablespoons Miso & Easy (or 1 tablespoon regular miso paste)
2 teaspoons Maggi Sauce (or 1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat a wok or large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the butter, garlic and green onion. Cook for 1 minute or until very fragrant, making sure to keep an eye on the heat so that the garlic does not burn. Add in the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the miso, Maggi Sauce (or oyster sauce) and stir.
Add in the cooked pasta and toss well.

Lemongrass prawns with Thai noodle salad

This is a very refreshing Asian-style salad, perfect for a hot day. We have a Kaffir lime tree (well worth having, if you cook a lot of Asian food) but if you can’t buy Kaffir lime leaves, then use some grated  lime rind instead. This is also a great do-ahead recipe if you’re entertaining.

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Serves 8

For Prawns and Noodles:

2 stalks lemongrass, white parts only (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 fresh Kaffir lime leaf, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 lb tiger prawns, peeled and deveined
1 (8-oz) package bean thread (cellophane) noodles

For Dressing:

2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped ginger
2 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp red pepper flakes

For Garnish:

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus sprigs
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
4 spring onions, chopped


For prawns and noodles: Peel outer layer of lemongrass. Cut into very fine crosswise slices and transfer to a large bowl.

In same bowl, combine lime juice, ginger, sesame oil, olive oil, garlic, lime leaf, salt, and pepper. Add prawns and toss to coat. Chill for 1 hour.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high, cook prawns for 2 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer to a plate.

Put noodles in a bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Make dressing: In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients.

Add noodles and toss, then add prawns. Garnish with chopped cilantro, mint, spring onions, and cilantro sprigs.

Soba noodles with sesame seeds

This is a wonderfully simple and utterly addictive recipe from Nigella Lawson. As she so poetically says, “You can lift the bowl to your face with this dish”. They are served cold so are perfect for a packed lunch.

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3 oz sesame seeds
8 oz soba noodles
5 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
2 tsp sesame oil (I love toasted sesame oil)
6 green onions

Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a high heat until they are golden brown and tip them into a bowl.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add some salt.
Put in the soba noodles and cook them for about 6 minutes (or according to the packet instructions) until they are tender but not mushy.
Have a bowl of iced water waiting to plunge them into after draining.

In the bowl you are going to serve them in, mix the vinegar, soy sauce, honey and oil. Then finely slice the green onions and put them into the bowl with the cooled drained noodles and mix together thoroughly before adding the sesame seeds and tossing again.

Leave the sesame seed noodles for about 30 minutes to let the flavors develop and lift the bowl to your face!