When my granddaughter was old enough to make her food preferences known, she had 3 favorite things that were always requested when she visited, "Grammy mac and cheese, ham, and applesauce", so of course when I knew she was coming I would be sure I had all 3 for her, isn't that what grandmothers do?
She, like all little children had her little food quirks and one of hers was everything be cut up really small, this unusual request from a 4 year old was interesting to me...many times my cuts did not make the grade so an idea popped in my mind, dice it, sautee it, and add it to the mac and cheese, killing two birds with one stone as they say, she could not see the actual sizes and I would make the grade in cutting, and Miss Madilyn's Mac and Cheese was born. Sometimes I would also toss in some peas or corn, but most often not as she was not always impressed with that idea. My basic recipe has always been the same and toss ins change frequently.
First of all I am not a fan of crock pot, or boxed mac and cheese, but they are great in a pinch for working mothers, dads, etc... I find the crock pot ones sometimes have gluey pasta, the boxed ones loaded with sodium and some ingredients not conducive to healthy eating for children...and I need to have a crunchy top and sides to make me happy...that is just me, there are so many great mac and cheese recipes out there, everyone has their family fav, and truthfully I have never turned down any mac and cheese made for me....and most of all I now have the time to make it from scratch, a luxury not afforded to all.
I do everything in one pan to save on dishes and easy clean up. Oven 375, time 40-45 minutes
First I cook 3 cups of pasta in water sprinkled with onion powder rather then salt(I always cook my pasta this way) , Madilyn liked it made with dif shapes all mixed together...Drain the pasta well in a colander and set aside.
Next I toss in the same warm pan on medium heat:
4 Tablespoons of butter and let melt
Once butter is melted I toss in:
4 Tablespoons of flour, black pepper, ground nutmeg, and stir slowly, then let simmer 3 minutes or so stirring often, Do no rush this...
Then I add a plop of mustard, and slowly add 2 cups of milk, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, when all milk has been added turn up heat to med high and stir constantly about 3 or 4 minutes until starts to bubble, once again, Do not rush this..
When bubbly add 2 cups of your fav shredded cheese, or whatever cheese you like, goat cheese, cream cheese, combos of cheeses whatever your family likes, and the diced precooked ham. 1 1/2 to 2 cups. and the drained pasta, Mix well.
Pour into a pan sprayed casserole dish, top with a little more cheese and bake at 375 degrees until bubbly and crunchy on the top. about 40 minutes give or take...
Note: my fav cheese to use is Monterey Jack, I buy in the block and grate it myself, I love that you get larger pieces then the shredded cheese in the packages, also I have used all kinds of cheese and combos...