Mac and cheese, the ultimate in comfort food. But why settle with something from the box when you can make your own creamy, rich, and delicious macaroni and cheese without too much effort. Now I admit, that I will occasionally reach for the box when I need to make a quick side. But when the Mac and Cheese becomes the focus of the meal, nothing beats the home made stuff. Plus if you shop well, you can make your own, for the same cost, or less, than the retail price of two boxes of name brand stuff.
The secret to delicious mac and cheese is in the sauce, and the foundation for mine is the classic French Bechamel sauce. Bechamel sauce, also known as white sauce, is one of the ‘mother sauces’ in French cuisine. Consisting of butter, flour and milk; a roux of butter and flour is made, taking care of not browning the butter, and then warmed milk added and the sauce cooked til thick. With the addition of cheese, about 2 cups worth, for our Mac and cheese, our Bechamel sauce actually becomes a Mornay sauce. Who would have thought that a simple dish could be so fancy.
This dish can be served creamy from the stove top, or baked with bread crumbs on the top for a crispy bite. Also since the dish is so simple, you have room for any type of mix-ins you want to take it to the next level.
Macaroni and Cheese
- 4 cups milk
- 8 tbsp butter (1 stick)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
- 12 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese, about 3 cups
- Bread crumbs
- Heat the milk in a medium saucepan til it just comes to a simmer, set aside.
- In a large heavy bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes.
- While whisking, slowly add the hot milk to the flour mixture (roux) until combined. The roux will be thick at first but will thin out with the addition of the milk. Cook two or three minutes until thick, the roux should coat the spoon. Add dry mustard and hot sauce. Slowly add salt, tasting and adjusting amount as desired. Take off heat and set aside.
- Cook pasta until al-dente (just about being done, al-dente pasta should have a slight ‘bite’ to it). Drain and set aside.
- Add half the cheese to the white sauce and stir. Return the pan with pasta to the burner and pour the cheese mixture over the pasta. Stir in the remaining cheese and cook til melted. Pour into a greased ceramic baking dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and cook at 400 degrees until bubbly and brown, 20-25 minutes.