To no oneʼs surprise, it turns out that powdered cheese products (boxed mac & cheese among them) are not that great for you. But for the love of Gouda, itʼs the only thing your child will eat with any regularity! Alas, you do not want to poison your offspring, but the last time you added cheese to hot noodles you got a congealed mess that even the dog frowned at.
Truth is, making mac & cheese from scratch is not as intuitive as adding powder to hot water, but it also isnʼt as hard as you might think. So, ditch the blue box and learn once and for all how to make it the old-fashioned way.
Easy Macaroni and Cheese From Scratch
First, youʼll need to prepare your desired noodles. Elbow Macaroni is ideal for cheese sauce application but by all means, go wild. Now, on to the cheese sauce, which is simply béchamel (white sauce) with cheese.
To make, youʼll need two saucepans (each capable of holding a quart of milk), a whisk, and the following:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1 quart whole milk
salt and pepper
8-12 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese
1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk adding a pinch or more of salt and pepper. At the same time, in a separate saucepan (of equal or greater size), melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, add flour and whisk to a paste.
2. Just as soon as the milk begins to boil, transfer it slowly to the saucepan with the butter and flour paste, whisking very quickly until completely smooth. Reduce heat.
3. Now, as with any great recipe, add cheese by the fistful and continue to gently whisk until the mixture is smooth and all of the cheese is melted.
In our opinion, more cheese is better but if the sauce becomes too thick you may whisk in a splash of milk. Add additional salt and pepper as needed. Pour the cheese sauce over your pre-cooked noodles, and there you have it! With a little practice or none at all, youʼll never again resort to powdered cheese simulations.
Now that you can feed your children, and you feel ready for the next level, try this recipe from Esther Kaufman, the grandmother of famed Westside cheesemonger David Rozansky. Rozanky says, “I’m a tad neurotic when it comes to the sharpness of the cheddar, the crunchiness of the crumble, the meltiness of the little pockets of pure cheesy deliciousness scattered throughout.”
Rozanky's grandmother (Mom Mom) has a way of making the classic mac & cheese that delivers “the perfect amount of cheese and cheesiness in a dish that is so much more than simply cooked pasta floating in a mornay sauce with a crispy top."
Making and eating Mom Mom’s mac & cheese recipe he says is, “fork-loads of pure cheese heaven, perfectly cooked pasta and a crunchy buttery top!!!”
Mom Mom’s recipe for Mac & Cheese Nirvana
1 pound uncooked elbow macaroni, penne rigate or maccheroni al torchio
2 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups shredded sheep milk gouda (Lamb Chopper or Ewephoria)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, DOP
2 ½ tablespoons of Saint Agur (or similar soft, blue cheese)
6 cups whole milk
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 teaspoons Coleman’s Dry Mustard
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup Matzo Meal or 1 cup bread crumbs
If you are making this for kids, omit or cut back on the blue cheese, as it may be too sharp. Also, you can completely omit the roux and still have an excellent result. It’s just personal preference.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Boil salted water and par-cook pasta until slightly tender. Drain.
3. In a saucepan bring milk to a simmer.
4. In a separate saucepan melt ½ the butter over a medium heat, whisk in just enough flour to make a blond roux, stirring continuously for about 4-5 minutes. Slowly add, 1 cup at a time, the milk to the roux, whisking continuously until smooth. Season with the salt, nutmeg, dry mustard and blue cheese. Set aside.
5. To a heavily buttered casserole dish, cover the bottom with the sauce, layer in ⅓ of the pasta, sprinkle with the cheese mixture, then more sauce, dot with butter, repeat.
6. Keep going until all the pasta, cheese and sauce has been used. Think of it as building lasagna. If using the Matzo Meal, sprinkle directly on top and generously dot with butter. If using bread crumbs, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over the stove, add the breadcrumbs and brown. Then distribute over the top.
7. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until bubbling and browned on top. For a crispier top, increase heat to 500 degrees in the last 5 minutes of baking.
8. Allow to cool slightly and set, about 15 minutes.
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