Unlike more traditional 'homemade macaroni & cheese' dishes, this one is not baked (read: not dry!). You make it, and you dish it up quickly and eat it! It's what comfort food dreams are made of. Feel free to swap out the cheddar with other cheeses--use what you've got, all those cheese ends collecting in the bottom of your fridge drawer, leftover from last week's wine & cheese party :)
Whole milk works best, but you can use a lower fat milk as well.
And if you really want to gild the lily, top it with a little bacon crumble made ahead of time: fry chopped bacon with a little butter, then mix in breadcrumbs and a little parmesan cheese. Fry for another minute or so, then let cool. You've now made a bacon crumble topper!
Like many, this mac & cheese starts with a classic Bechamel sauce, one of the five leading sauces in French cookery.
1/4 cup butter
1⁄4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
3 cup milk
1⁄4 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
Bay leaf (optional)
2 cups (8oz./250g) grated old cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you have on hand! )
1-450g package of short pasta (rotini, shells, penne, macaroni)
Salt, as needed
Pepper, as needed
- Melt butter in a preheated heavy bottom pot on medium heat.
- Stir in flour & salt until completely combined. Whisk in milk, adding 1 cup at a time. Whisk constantly (be sure to get your whisk in the corners of the pot) until slightly thickened before adding the next cup of milk.
- Stir in nutmeg and bay leaf (if using). Keep warm on low heat, whisking occasionally for 5-10 minutes. Whisk in cheese off the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, boil water for pasta. Season the water with salt, (the water should taste salty).
- Add the pasta, stirring until the water comes back to a boil. Cook the pasta until quite al dente.
- Drain pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Stir pasta into sauce, thinning out if necessary with pasta cooking water.
- Serve immediately, adding that bacon crumble if you like!