Homemade sharp cheddar cheese sauce and smoked-paprika bread crumbs give this mac a massive flavor boost over the boxed version. For the easiest prep in camp, make the cheese sauce and bread crumbs at home, and buy one-pan, no-drain pasta. (Or cook regular pasta in camp as noted below.)
BREAD CRUMBS AND SAUCE
1 1/2 cups fresh ciabatta bread crumbs*
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
About 3/4 tsp. pepper, divided
3/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
12 ounces Barilla Pronto elbow macaroni (a one-pan, no-drain pasta)* or regular macaroni
How to Make It
Toast bread crumbs: In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook crumbs with oil and 1/8 tsp. each salt and pepper, stirring often, until crumbs begin to crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Add paprika and cook, stirring, until crunchy, 2 to 4 more minutes. Pour from pan to a bowl and let cool; then seal in a lidded container or resealable plastic bag.
Make sauce: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and remaining 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper; whisk until bubbling and light tan, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Add milk and cook, whisking, until sauce bubbles and thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add cheese, and whisk until melted. Let cool, then transfer to a lidded container and chill in refrigerator or cooler.
Pour no-drain pasta into a 12-in. cast-iron skillet or other large, deep frying pan on a camp stove; add 3 cups cold water. Cook over high heat, stirring often, until all but about 1/2 cup water is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. (For regular pasta, cook in a large pot of boiling water until just tender. Set aside 1/2 cup cooking water; drain pasta and return to pot with reserved water.)
Add cheese sauce to pasta and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Spoon into bowls and scatter bread crumbs over each serving.
*Whirl a few slices of bread in a food processor to make crumbs. Find Pronto pasta at well-stocked grocery stores.
Make ahead: Through step 2, up to 3 days.
Wine pairing: A bright, crisp white like Dobbes Family Greater View Vineyard Grenache Blanc (Rogue Valley, OR), with lovely texture and a gamut of citrus flavors that work with the cheese, and a layer of minerality that makes the paprika pop.
Camp Sunset, A Modern Camper's Guide to the Great Outdoors (Oxmoor House; May 2016)