The 10 Commandments of Great Mac and Cheese
Updated: May 21
A few stipulations from the start:
Boxed mixes with powdered “cheese” and powdered “milk” are a firm NO.
Velveeta, cottage cheese and/or sour cream DO NOT belong in Mac and Cheese. Though frequently delicious, additions of vegetables such as spinach, peas, butternut squash, broccoli, leeks etc would classify your dish more specifically as a gratin or casserole. But many of these rules will still apply.
Milk, flour, butter, cheese, pasta. And perhaps a crunchy topping of some kind. And a bit of culinary knowhow.
Here are the 10 Commandments to M&C‘s consistent excellence:
1) Undercook the pasta about 2/3 less than el dente. It will finish cooking as it bakes. This assures that your finished M&C isn’t mushy. Rinse the macaroni in cold water after cooking to rinse off the excess starch. That excess starch can ruin your sauce. 2) Always use freshly grated cheese, never packaged grated cheese. The packaged grated cheese has cellulose or other additives that make it melt poorly. Best yet, make it easy and let your food processor grate your real cheese for you.
3) Resist the temptation to use reduced fat milk. Use whole milk for the creamiest result. In the restaurant business they toss heavy cream into the mix but hey…don’t do that. And warm the milk before adding it to your bechemel.
4) The slower you add the milk to the roux the thicker and creamier your sauce will be. Don’t rush it. And whisk continuously.
5) Don’t add more cheese than a reputable recipe calls for. It changes everything and not in a good way.
7) Turn the heat off when you add the cheese so the mixture doesn’t separate.
8) Put your oven rack and your pan smack in the center of the oven. This assures an even browning.
9) Choose no topping at all, panko, homemade bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, crumpled potato chips, I won’t get into that squabble. But if you are a freak for the crunchy topping, or if your family wrestles over it, choose the flattest, widest, shallowest baking dish to expand your top. Add some butter across your topping to enhance the crunch. See how to make a very simple but excellent topping here: Mac and Cheese Topping
10) Yes, microwave your leftovers by the single portion. BUT only on the defrost cycle. Full heat will separate the ingredients and ruin it. There you go!! After that it’s all about individual recipe!! And another recipe. And another recipe! All with the happiest final words ever written: “Bake until bubbly!!” 👈