Classic Mac and Cheese
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food that lends itself to many exotic, delightful variations.
I‘ll also share some other M&C recipes that I like but this one, a fundamental childhood memory, country diner version, never fails. This suits the mood for all ages at any family gathering, its simplicity never disappoints. Make it especially healthful by upgrading to include the very best essential ingredients (organic cheese, butter and milk) for the bechamel. Make it especially delicious with impeccable technique.
This recipe is also nifty because it’s an effective stove top technique.
If you are serious (it’s worth it to be!) about making a great M&C, check out the The 10 Commandments of Great Mac and Cheese here.
Make this recipe in one broiler safe 9X13 casserole dish, or break into 2 8X8 squares. You can also use individual ramekins.
Cook 1 LB of elbow macaroni in about 4 qts of boiling water and some salt. Under cook the pasta to 1-2 minutes less than el dente. Rinse 1/2 cooked macaroni in cold water to rinse off the excess starch.
Shred 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese and 8 oz Sharp White Cheddar Cheese and set aside.
In heavy Dutch oven, heat 5T butter over medium heat until foaming, whisking. Whisk in 6T flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional), 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, combining.
Continue whisking until fragrant and deep in color, about 1 minute.
Gradually whisk in 5 cups of warm whole milk, whisking constantly until it boils. Mixture must attain full boil in order to fully thicken.
Reduce heat to simmer, whisking occasionally, until consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes.
Turn off heat. Add shredded cheeses and a bit of salt.
Stir to combine until creamy.
Add pasta. Cook over low medium heat, stirring, until hot and steamy.
Transfer mixture to casserole dish(es).
Top with bread crumbs, panko, shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese, smashed potato chips, crushed red or black pepper, your choice. Toppings are really personal and you should experiment. If you want to really fuss (it’s not necessary) and take your topping all the way too oooo la la, try this caramelized shallot and herb bread crumb recipe.
The shallots caramelize stovetop, then the fresh sage and rosemary fry in the same oil. Finally the breadcrumbs fry in the same oil and it’s all combined at the finish with parsley and spices. Truly a topping fit for the holidays.
Ready to go into the oven:
Place your topped off M&C under broiler, watching closely, until top is browned.
Cool about 5 minutes and serve. Tabasco sauce and celery salt are nice condiments at the table.
Mac and Cheese microwaves nicely for a follow-up meal, but be sure to use the DEFROST cycle on your microwave. This keeps the cheeses from being ruined, seizing up, separating, and ruining the dish. Now you know.