All this cheese talk has made me very hungry. Well, that and the fact that I’m currently sitting in an airport having eaten only those little ginger cookies that they feed you on the airplane these days.
But back to cheese. Alice, that cheese recipe was great! Such a sophisticated dish to serve to guests.
There’s something about cheese that is very comforting. And what is more comforting than adding it to macaroni, topping it with crunchy crumbs and baking it?! I didn’t grow up with macaroni and cheese, but I discovered it as an adult and set off to learn how to make the good creamy home-made stuff, not the stuff from the little blue box.
Here is my favorite macaroni and cheese.
It calls for quite a bit of cheese, as might be expected.
You can use any kind of cheese you like or even a combination of cheeses. I like to go with cheddar for the nice orange color and Gruyère for a nice tangy flavor.
Shred the cheese first, as things move very quickly once you get cooking. It’s best if you shred it yourself, as the convenient bags of pre-shredded cheese you can get from the grocery store tend to be tossed in something to keep them from sticking together into one massive glob. That also keeps the sauce from getting nice, smooth and melty.
See, it’s not THAT hard to shred it yourself. Really.
After the cheese is ready, it’s time to move on to making the roux. Roux is a way to thicken a sauce by cooking butter and flour together before adding the liquid, which in this case is milk.
So, start by putting a pot of water on to boil for cooking the pasta, heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat, then melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed pan over medium/low heat
once the butter is melted, add the flour and stir around until it is fully incorporated into the butter.
Let it cook for a little while, so the flour taste is cooked out of the sauce. Then pour in the hot milk, whisking all the while
Whisk until the milk has been fully incorporated into the flour mixture and is smooth and starting to thicken, then toss in the cheese.
Mix until the cheese is all melted,
then add the cooked and drained pasta.
Mix it all together until it is fully combined
then pour into a baking dish
Prepare the bread crumbs – I like to use Panko bread crumbs, as they are finer, flakier and lighter. Read all about them here.
Mix the crumbs with melted butter and some grated parmesan cheese
sprinkle over the macaroni and cheese and bake until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the topping is browned
Look at that cheesy, gooey, crunchy goodness!
Macaroni and Cheese
(inspired by the Barefoot Contessa recipe)
1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 quart (4 cups) milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces (4 cups) Gruyère, shredded
8 ounces (2 cups) extra-sharp Cheddar, shredded
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, six to eight minutes (don’t overcook it as it will cook a little further while it is baking). Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt six tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for two minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Add the Gruyère, Cheddar, salt and pepper. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.
Melt the remaining two tablespoons of butter, combine them with the bread crumbs and two tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the crumb topping is browned on the top.
OK, Alice. What next? Your move.