Macaroni and cheese

Time for some comfort food. I’ve tried a number of recipes for one of my favorites, macaroni and cheese, but always come back to this basic recipe. As with any project, use good quality ingredients for the best tasting result – organic butter and whole milk, fresh flour (King Arthur is the best), and great tasting cheese.

Serve this with a nice salad of tender lettuces and baby leafy greens and a balsamic vinaigrette and a cold glass of orange juice!

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 4 c. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. dried mustard or up to 1 tsp. Dijon mustard (optional)
  • A few shakes of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 10 oz. extra sharp cheddar (I like Cracker Barrel New York Aged Reserve Extra Sharp White Cheddar, in the black wrapper)
  • Salt and pepper

Bring a big pot of water to a boil, add about 1/2 T. of salt to the water, then cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Be sure to stir the macaroni from time to time so the pieces don’t stick together. Drain off the water.

While the water is coming to a boil and the macaroni is cooking, heat up the milk (on the stove or in the microwave), but don’t let it boil. Grate the cheese coarsely (a food processor with a grater disc works fast for this).

Melt the butter over medium-low heat, then stir in the flour with a whisk (this is called a roux). Turn the burner down a bit and let the roux bubble a few minutes (continue to stir) to cook the flour a bit. Don’t let it brown. Stir in the hot milk all at once, stirring vigorously with the whisk to smooth out any lumps. Whisk in the mustard and cayenne if you are using them and let the sauce bubble gently for about 2 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the stove and stir in the grated cheese. Stir until it is melted, then add salt to taste. Stir the cheese sauce into the cooked macaroni and taste it again to see if you need more salt or a grind or two of black pepper.

You can eat it as is, or you can put it in a baking dish, sprinkle more cheese or some buttered breadcrumbs* on top, and bake it for 20 or 30 minutes at about 375 degrees. The baked version is less creamy and has a crusty top.

Serves 4-6.

*Buttered bread crumbs: Heat up some butter in a small skillet, stir in the crumbs, which you make from good quality bread. Forget about the pre-made crumbs from the grocery store, they’re no good.

Comments are closed.