Saturday, November 27, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

This is not quite how my mama made macaroni and cheese, but it's a close second, and it's how I've been making mac 'n' cheese ever since I found a recipe for it in one of my Italian cookbooks. Over time, I've parted from the recipe a bit for my own taste.

The base is a besciamella, a white sauce. I get 2 cups of whole milk and heat it up with a bay leaf. No boil, just hot.

Separately, I melt 4 tablespoons (half a stick, usually) of butter, whisk in 1/3 cup of flour, and cook it for a couple of minutes.

Time to add the hot milk (above) and whisk it up. I bring it almost to a boil, keep whisking it, and cook it for five minutes. At this point, I season with a little bit of salt, a liberal amount of black pepper, and just a dash of nutmeg.

Now it's time to lower the heat and add grated cheese. I use cheddar (you can experiment with others or blends) and for this stage I grate a cup and a half, adding it in two doses while I whisk, whisk, whisk. As it melts and becomes a nice, creamy sauce, I lower the heat as much as it will go and stir it occasionally so it doesn't form a skin on top.

Have you started the macaroni yet? By now, you should at least have the water boiling. You should also get the oven going for 400 degrees.

For this much sauce, I cook one pound of shells. Important: cook it until it is almost al dente, but not quite.

Now combine the pasta and sauce in a greased casserole dish. Stir that up really nicely. And then...

Grate some more cheese on top, and add bread crumbs to taste (for me, 1/3 cup or even a little more). Is that oven hot? Right. Middle rack, center of the oven. Leave it to bake for 20 minutes.

During these 20 minutes, you can do your kitchen clean-up.

20 minutes later, kaboom! You got yourself a macaroni bomb. Mangiate.


Kelly said...

Okay, even though I'm not the biggest mac & cheese fan you've convinced me to try it. (it was the photos that pushed me over the edge)

I think some freshly grated English Cheddar would be just the right cheese.

Thanks, Alg!

Pam said...

We're huge fans of homemade mac and cheese around here! You're looks and sounds yummy! Will have to try it out! :)

Hal Johnson said...

Thanks for sharing this!

Kathe W. said...

Kelly posted a few days ago extolling the virtues of your rapturous recipe for Mac n''s the same as how I make it - except for the bay leaf heated with milk- I'll be doing that from now on! Nice blog by the way- I'll be back!

Cassie said...

Kelly linked to this post and I'm glad I followed it. Sounds and looks yummers...I'm going to try this soon.

quid said...

Mmmmmm.... I have developed a taste for the new fad, lobster mac and cheese. Trendy, aren't I? This is a wonderful recipe!