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recipe
Homemade Baked Mac & Cheese
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This homemade macaroni and cheese is even better than the kind in a box. It’s packed with the “fifth taste,” umami, which describes the Parmesan flavor you’ll find in the creamy cheese sauce, along with crispy bacon, cherry tomatoes, and the crunchy breadcrumb topping. This recipe makes a BIG batch of macaroni and cheese, so you will have some to share with your friends and family or extras for your lunchbox tomorrow. (You can easily divide this recipe in half,  by reducing the measurements and by  using an 8-by-8-inch casserole dish instead.) Instead of just the traditional cheddar cheese, this recipe also includes both Parmesan and Gruyère. It’s fun to taste the individual cheeses and decide on a blend that you want to use. If you don’t like Gruyère, add another cheese (or more cheddar) instead!

What’s umami?

Umami is taste #5 (after sweet, salty, sour and bitter.)

“Umami” is a Japanese word that basically means “deliciousness.” It’s a taste found in all food, from tomatoes to tuna fish, but some foods have more umami than others. What does umami taste like? Savory and wonderful. It also magically makes the other four tastes stronger and better.

The best way to learn about this mystical fifth taste is to try different kinds of foods that are heavy in umami. Some kid-friendly starters: soy sauce, Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and cured ham. Once you’ve sampled in-your-face umami, you’ll be able to recognize subtler hints of taste number five in other foods.

Gather Ingredients

Cooking Instructions

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a 9-by-12-inch casserole dish and set aside.

Step 2

GROWN UP ALERT!

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Step 3

GROWN UP ALERT!

Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. In a separate saucepan, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Have an adult help you slowly pour in the hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, about 3 minutes.

Step 4

Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, black pepper, and all of the cheeses and stir until smooth. Set the cheese sauce aside.

Step 5

GROWN UP ALERT!

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than the package directions instruct you to do. Transfer the pasta to a colander; rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce.

Step 6

Pour the pasta into the casserole dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the entire dish, then sprinkle the top with the bacon. Scatter the tomatoes over the top of the pasta. Bake until the top is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let the pasta cool for a few minutes before serving.

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