You need to start early--here's the breakdown of the time I spent on this dish!
* 20 multitasking minutes: Boiling water, macaroni noodles, greasing 8x13 pan, measuring & shredding cheeses and dicing ham.
* 2 minutes accepting a care package from my mom (from the post man!)
* about 5 minutes chasing my kids away from the cheese
* about 15 minutes thickening up the milk, flour and butter mixture
* about 5 minutes answering the phone.
So... the prep time is 35 uninterrupted minutes... :) Don't forget to add in BAKE time, which is at least one hour (that should be plenty to get the mixture hot, bubbly and thickened) AND 20 minutes set time after baking. That's a grand total of just shy of two hours. The hour baking time is what I'm using to update this recipe, and it'll be used to get a salad ready, dishes washed and put away. ;)
1 8-ounce package Macaroni noodles
5 Tablespoons Butter
5 Tablespoons Flour
1 Quart (4 Cups) Milk, warmed (warming is important to keep your sauce from clumping!)
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 Pinch Cayenne pepper
1/4 pound Ham, cooked & cubed
5 ounces Cheddar cheese, cubed
5 ounces Mozzarella, cubed
5 ounces Monterrey jack, cubed
Paprika, to taste, for garnish
1. Cook pasta to al dente and drain. It's important not to get it too cooked because it'll spend more yummy, sauce-absorbing time in the oven.
2. Melt butter and add flour. Whisk in the warm milk. Simmer until thick (5 minutes on low, gentle boil), then add salt, pepper and cayenne pepper seasonings.
3. Remove from heat and add the cheeses, ham. If you want it meatless, leave out the ham. I actually doubled the ham to a full half-pound.
4. Mix in the noodles
5. Pour into a greased baking dish, topping with paprika.
6. Bake at 350* for 45-60 minutes. I think I ended up leaving mine in for the full hour. But I got all of my dishes done, so what do you do. :)
7. Let dish rest for 20 minutes before serving.