I thought this unique topping for mac ‘n’ cheese from the Garden Grill Restaurant at Walt Disney World was just the cutest thing I’d ever seen. I had to imitate it and add it to my own kid friendly recipe for macaroni and cheese. The addition of Goldfish crackers makes for the perfect presentation for both the young and the young at heart. I hope this meal brings some smiles to your kitchen table.
1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 1/3 cup Parmesan Flavored Goldfish, divided
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Butter, melted
Macaroni and Cheese:
1/2 pound Shell Pasta (or whatever shape you prefer)
6 quarts Water
2 tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup White Onion, finely diced
1 clove Garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Flour
1 pint Whole Milk
1 heaping cup Sharp White Cheddar (4 ounces by weight), grated
3/4 cup Gruyere, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/2 teaspoon Mustard Powder
1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper
Dash of Nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Begin by making the Goldfish cracker topping. Take 2/3 cup of Goldfish and place them in a zip top sandwich bag. Using the backside of a measuring cup or a rolling pin crush the crackers until they are the size of large bread crumbs. Place the Goldfish crumbs, the whole Goldfish, the panko, and the grated parmesan in a small bowl. Drizzle with the melted butter and toss to evenly coat. Set aside.
Put the water in a large pot and place it on the stove over high heat to boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, pull out your cheeses and grate them. Set the cheese aside. Dice your onion and mince your garlic. When the water comes to a boil add enough salt to make it taste like sea water (I add about 1/8 cup or so). Pour in your pasta and follow the box directions to cook al dente. Drain when finished (but don’t rinse!) and set aside.
While your pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add your onions and cook until translucent. Add in your garlic and cook for another minute. Add in your flour and stir to combine. This creates a roux and will thicken your sauce. When you make a roux it is important to cook the roux itself for a few minutes before you add in your liquid or you end up with a sauce that tastes like flour. After the flour has cooked out for a few minutes, add in your liquid about 1/2 cup at a time, whisking in between to incorporate the roux. Once all of the milk is in the pan increase the heat slightly and keep stirring until the milk simmers (do not bring to a boil) and the mixture thickens. Once the base for your sauce is thick, begin to add in your cheeses slowly (probably in 3 additions) and whisk to combine each time. Once all the cheese has melted add the salt, mustard powder, and a dash of nutmeg. If you feel the sauce is too thick you can thin it out with a little more milk (a little goes a long way). If your sauce pan is large enough, add the drained pasta directly to the pot and stir to combine, otherwise transfer everything to a bowl.
At this point you have a couple of options to finish the dish, I like to do individual servings using small ramekins , but you can also do a family style dish. Place the macaroni and cheese in an oven proof dish (or the individual ramekins) and top with the Goldfish crumb mixture. Place in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve.
Tips and Tricks:
If you are making this for younger kids the dish is probably going to be to hot to handle if you cook the whole thing in the oven. As an alternative you can put the Goldfish crumb topping on a sheet pan and toast it in the oven alone for a few minutes while the macaroni and cheese is coming together on the stove. Then simply sprinkle the crumbs over the macaroni and cheese when it has cooled a little.
I like to cook the whole box of pasta and reserve half for another meal in the week. You can easily toss it with marinara sauce or make a pasta salad with the leftovers.
Whole milk and cheese are going to make for a much smoother sauce, if you do want to reduce calories I wouldn’t go any less than 2% milk and part skim cheese.
You should really buy blocks of cheese and grate your own. Pre-grated cheese is often coated with a food grade wax to keep it from clumping in the package, but it does not do well for melting.
If you are making this for big kids (like my husband) a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne is a nice addition to the sauce to give it some kick.
You can substitute almost any cheese in the sauce, so get creative and make it your own.
Serves 4 to 6 people.