Homemade cheese sauce mixed with pasta, topped with buttery bread crumbs and baked until toasty. This comfort food favorite will please a crowd. Makes 12 servings! (I usually freeze half).
Why heat the macaroni after cooking? If you combine the cooked pasta to the cheese immediately after draining, you're going to introduce quite a lot of water to the dish, as a quick draining just doesn't quite do it. Adding the pasta back to the pan will dry it out further, allowing the cheese sauce to more thoroughly coat the pasta.
Why torn bread and not just prepared bread crumbs or Panko? It's all about texture. Prepared bread crumbs in this particular dish actually makes for a "gritty" texture in your mouth. Panko is a bit better, but nothing beats the satisfying crunch of these small toasted bits of buttery bread.
This recipe makes a huge amount, but it freezes really well. I use foil pans from the dollar store, wrap one in foil, then plastic wrap, and freeze for up to two months. Just remove, and bake at 350F for an hour. OR - the recipe can easily be cut in half - it works fine just as it is.
You can add protein to the dish - just make sure it's fully cooked before adding, as the temperature reached in baking will not cook meats or fish to a proper temperature. Be sure to drain well!