Like most little kids, my daughter Dahlia loves macaroni and cheese, and I‘ve made it for her in many guises, running the gamut of techniques. My aim is always the same — to make the dish quickly with a minimum of fuss, and to use a maximum of vegetables that she will tolerate and not pick out.
This is one of both our favorites. It’s comforting, crusty topped, soft centered, and very cheesy – but not at all sophisticated. Just simple, kid-friendly, homemade food with the added grown-up appeal of lots of healthful carrots tossed into the mix. I got the idea from a chef’s recipe in a glossy food magazine. I decided to come up with my own simplified and ultra-Cheddary version. It was a huge hit with the under-three crowd and their parents, too. It’s a straightforward recipe that comes together without much fuss, other than having to grate some carrots. But to make up for that, I’ve eliminated the need to make a cheese sauce on the top of the stove. Instead, I toss the hot pasta with grated cheddar, butter, sour cream for creaminess, and eggs to hold it all together. The grated carrots get boiled along with the pasta, so cooking them isn’t an extra step. And the tiny orange shreds look so much like the cheddar that your kids might not even notice they are there. Dahlia certainly hasn’t, and while I’ve never lied to her about their inclusion, I might have left out the word carrot in the dish description — accidentally, of course.–Melissa Clark
LC Getting By With A Little Help From Your Friends Note
There’s not always room in a recipe for all the tricks and tactics that a cookbook author has come to learn in making a recipe over and over and over again. Fortunately, cookbook author and recipe conjurer Melissa Clark also considers herself a friend to readers, so she has has these additional tricks, tactics, and tips to share:
–This is one of those macaroni and cheeses with an eggy custard base that puffs as it cooks and is cut into squares, like a casserole, as opposed to that gooey, creamy, stove-top béchamel sauce version. I know some people have strong opinions about what constitutes a proper mac and cheese–I’m an equal opportunist myself, but thought I’d let you know what you’re getting yourself into before starting the recipe.
–If grating the Cheddar cheese in a food processor, you don’t need to clean it before grating the carrots–or vice versa.
–You can vary the cheese to give this rather plain (if tasty) dish more personality. Gruyère, aged Cheddar, pecorino, and aged Gouda will all add a sophisticated allure that will raise it above mere kids’ food.
–Feed this dish to the kids as is; grown-ups should indulge with a squirt of fiery Sriracha or other hot sauce all over the top.
Mac and Cheese with Carrots Recipe
Hands-On Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 1 hour | Serves 6
- 2 cups macaroni, preferably whole-wheat
- 2 1/2 cups (about 8 smallish carrots) coarsely grated carrot
- 3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the baking dish
- 3/4 cup sour cream (not low-fat or non-fat)
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1. Preheat the oven to 400° F (204°C). Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.
- 2. Cook the macaroni according to package instructions, adding the grated carrots about 3 minutes before the pasta is due to be done. Drain the pasta and carrots in a colander.
- 3. Dump the hot pasta and carrots back into the pot and stir in 2 1/2 cups of the Cheddar and all of the butter. In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, salt, mustard powder, and pepper, and then fold this mixture into the pasta. Scrape the cheesy pasta into the prepared dish and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar and the Parmesan.
- 4. Bake the carroty mac and cheese casserole until it’s firm to the touch and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes, then slice or scoop it straight from the baking dish.
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Mac and Cheese with Carrots Recipe © 2011 Melissa Clark. Photo © 2011 Andrew Scrivani. All rights reserved.