When you’ve been cooking for a while, you start to get a feel for those ingredients that you always have in your kitchen. I always have pasta, milk, and Cheddar cheese. Which is perfect, because macaroni and cheese happens to be one of my favorite foods. When I was a kid, I would wake up and make myself a hot bowl of the stuff from the blue box.
But real mac and cheese isn’t like that. And it is not, absolutely not, orange. It’s creamy and golden and unbeatable. And I’m here to show you how to make it. But not without first giving full credit to my mother, who taught me how.
Neither of us use real measurements anymore, so use what I give you as a base. Make it this way first, and adjust as you go. This is a recipe that you can take in a million different directions depending on the occasion.
You will need:
- 1 lb macaroni noodles—my favorite are Barilla because they are a little twisty and have ridges to catch the sauce. In such a simple dish, these are the little components that make a difference.
- 2 T butter
- 2 T flour
- 4 C milk at room temperature—I wouldn’t use all skim, but any combination of milks is fine. I think I make this differently each time. Last time I used 1 C cream because that’s what I had left, and 3 C skim to finish the job.
- 8 oz of Cheddar cheese, although it never hurts to throw in a little extra. You must use the sharpest Cheddar you can find, and you may not use the orange stuff. Who wants to eat artificial color anyway?
- Bread crumbs
Are you ready? Start a large pot of water on your stove and let it come to a rolling boil. Dump in a bunch of salt to flavor the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
All good recipes begin with a roux. Melt the butter in another large pot. Stir in the flour and cook for about 3 minutes to take away the flour taste.
This roux is going to be used as the base for a béchamel sauce.
Pour in the milk and stir. Bring to a simmer, and keep stirring, letting the sauce thicken up.
Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese. At this point, I stopped taking pictures. Don’t know why. Sorry.
Now we’re cooking.
Add the noodles to the pot with the sauce, and give everything a good stir.
Pour the mixture in a casserole dish, or any oven-safe pot.
Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.
This will feed a crowd, and make them quite happy, too. Or, you can do what I do, and eat it for breakfast, day after day after day.