Mac and cheese is one of those dishes that can easily grow up with us (and has with my daughters) with the cheese changing (and improving) and the pasta choices becoming more interesting. it can also play host to a range of other foods, making it a really versatile recipe to have in your repertoire.
1 lb. (450 grams) short dried pasta (elbow macaroni, rotini, etc.)
5T (or 5 c.s.) of sweet (unsalted) butter
5T (or 5 c.s.) of all purpose flour
2-3 cups (475-700 ml) of milk
6 oz. (or 170 grams) of cheddar cheese (you can substitute another
cheese like Gruyere for up to 2 oz. (55 grams) of the cheddar)
1/3 cup (75 grams) of grated parmagian cheese
1/8 t. (or 1/8 c.c.) cayenne pepper
1/4 t. (or 1/4 c.c.) ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup of panko or other very dry bread crumbs (optional)
2T of salted butter, melted (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 300 deg. F (gas mark 2).
- Grate the cheddar cheese and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
- Add the pasta and cook until just barely done. Drain well (shaking to get extra water out) and set aside
- In a large pot or pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and mix with a whisk until fully incorporated with the butter.
- Add 2 cups of the milk slowly, whisking or stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
- Raise the heat to medium and keep stirring until the sauce begins to bubble (the flour is through thickening at the point the sauce reaches a low boil).
- Reduce the heat to low and add the grated cheddar, the parmesan, the cayenne and the nutmeg. Stir until the the cheese is fully melted. If the sauce is too thick add more milk until it is the consistency you want.
- Add the drained pasta to an oven safe dish, pour the cheese sauce over the and stir until the pasta is thoroughly coated.
NOTE: To make this a heartier or more interesting dish you can add crumbled, cooked bacon or pancetta, small pieces of cooked chicken, or cooked vegetables such as broccoli or chopped spinach or anything else that strikes your fancy that is not too wet.
- In a small bowl mix the panko and the melted butter, if using, until well blended. Sprinkle over the mac and cheese
- Place in the oven for 15-25 minutes until the crumbs are brown and the mixture is bubbling. Serve.