Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is one of the great American comfort foods. I think every kid around loves it, and most adults do too. But I rarely see friends make it at home. That’s a shame, because it’s really pretty easy to make. In this recipe video, I make a classic mac n' cheese, or at least what I consider classic. My recipe starts with a béchamel sauce, to which I add cheese, and elbow macaroni. While you could serve it right then, I like to finish mine baked in the oven for a "baked mac n cheese", which gives it a nicely browned top.
Recipe Overview and Keys to Success
To make a great mac and cheese, I want you to play close attention to these few keys to success:
- You boil off the pasta prior to adding it the cheese sauce and baking the mac and cheese. Because this is a two step cooking process, you need to make sure you don’t over cook the pasta. So pull the macaroni noodles out of the water early, and when they are still al dente
- Use more sauce than you might think. As the macaroni and cheese bakes in the oven, the pasta absorbs and thickens the sauce. If you have what looks like the right consistency when you put the mac n' cheese into the oven, chances are it will be on the dry side, when it comes out of the oven – so err on the side of more, rather than less, sauce. You can see how loose I keep it in the recipe video.
- Use more than one type of cheese (don’t use American slices, they don’t work well) to get more complexity of flavor. And don’t be shy about experimenting with new cheeses – I usually just use up all the leftover pieces I find in the fridge.
- 3 – 4 tablespoons of flour
- 3 – 4 tablespoons of butter
- 3 – 4 cups of milk or cream
- Yellow mustard – a tablespoon
- Paprika – a few dashes
- Cheddar cheese – 1.5 cups
- Fontina cheese – ¾ of a cup
- Quarter pound macaroni noodles
- You can watch a recipe video that shows how to make a béchamel sauce here
- In a sauce pan, melt the butter, then add the flour to make a roux
- Stir the roux over low heat for 5 – 10 minutes
- Add the mustard and paprika, stir to combine
- Slowly add the milk, stirring as you go. The roux will immediately thicken, but as you add milk, it will thin out, until it begins to boil
- Once boiling, you can adjust the thickness of the sauce by adding more milk. You’re looking for a syrup like consistency.
- As you make the béchamel, cook off your elbow macaroni until al dente.
- Drain it very well shaking off all the water, or you’ll dilute the sauce
- While the béchamel sauce is still over low heat, add 3 quarters of the cheese to the béchamel sauce and stir so the cheese melts
- Add the cooked pasta, and season with salt and pepper & stir to combine
- Take a final look at the thickness. It should seem fairly soupy, if not, add some more milk
- Pour the macaroni and cheese into a greased baking dish or Pyrex
- Spread the rest of the cheese over the top, along with a sprinkling of bread crumbs
- Put the baking dish into a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes;
- Turn on the broiler to brown the top of the macaroni and cheese; this will take about 5 minutes, and you’ll want to check it frequently to ensure it doesn’t burn
- Once browned, remove from the oven, let it stand for about 5 minutes to cool and set, and then you’re ready to serve
As I point out in the video, this is a “classic” version of macaroni and cheese. In addition to adding different cheeses to change it up, you can add vegetables (like spinach or cauliflower) or one my favorites is to mix in some bacon lardons before you bake off the mac and cheese in the oven.
Hope you enjoy this American classic!!