Classic Macaroni & Cheese
A friend recently told me that in an article she read a statics showed that the top consumer of macaroni & cheese in the Unites States was a tie between toddlers ages 3-6 and college students. These two groups also tied in the most amount of time devoted to taking naps (fun fact!). Since I’ve been away at college, I can one hundred percent attest to these stats. The amount of naps I’ve taken and the countless pounds of noodles and cheese sauce I have consumed is too high to count! And I regret none of it.
Macaroni & cheese is a classic in my family. My mother and I have been playing around and trying new recipes for years. In recent years, she discovered a baked mac and cheese recipe that has an insane amount of cheese and cubes of butter melted into it. It is heavenly! Maybe I’ll do a blog post about it one day? But you might be saying “Nate, wait a minute. I don’t even know the first steps to making homemade mac & cheese!” Fear no longer my friend, because you are about to see that mac and cheese is super easy to make and way better than store bought.
Macaroni & cheese is essentially noodles and a Mornay sauce (which is essentially a fancy term for a basic white sauce with cheese). A Mornay sauce is this equation = roux + cream + cheese.
The beauty of this recipe is that it is completely adaptable! Experiment with different types of cheeses, seasonings, and even infused creams to add a deeper depth of flavor. Below I have included a list of some ideas you (and I) could try and experiment with.
Herb infused cream can add a beautiful depth of flavor to any savory or sweet dish. In a small sauce pan, heat up 1 cup of cream (either milk, heavy cream, or half and half) until it begins to steam.
Take the sauce pan off the heat and in 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of any fresh herb or spice (ie. Rosemary, mint, basil, sage, lavender, chamomile, etc.). Cover and let sit for 25 minutes. Strain out the herbs and store in an airtight container.
- Herb infused butter: Mix together softened butter with any minced herb. Cover and use when needed!
- Try different cheeses such as Havarti, mozzarella, feta, and maybe even goat cheese!
- Season your mac and cheese
- For heat: use red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, and/or cayenne pepper
- Use fresh or dried herbs! My mother typically uses garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasons.
- For a curry inspired dish: add a touch of turmeric for a beautiful orange/yellow color
- Bake it in the oven!
- Transfer to an oven safe casserole dish and top the mac and cheese with cheese, bread crumbs, bacon crumbles, fresh herbs, or even crunched up Cheetos or Fritos.
- Chill it, bread it, and fry it! Great as an appetizer.
- Have a “Build your own” mac and cheese party! Cook up a big pot of sauce with multiple types of pastas and toppings and let your guests build their own mac and cheese.
Macaroni & Cheese Ingredients
12 oz. box elbow macaroni pasta
4 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. Clabber Girl Corn Starch
1 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. Gouda cheese
1 c. cheddar cheese
½ c. Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions for Macaroni & Cheese
Fill a large Dutch oven halfway with lukewarm water. Add a pinch of salt and heat over medium heat until the water begins to boil. Once the water begins boiling, add the pasta and cook via the instructions on the book. Strain pasta through a colander and return to the Dutch oven.
In a medium sauce melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the corn starch. This mixture of corn starch and fat is called a roux. Allow the roux to cook for a few moments. Then slowly pour in the cream and whisk to combine.
Note. In order to have the sauce thicken up more quickly, heat the cream in the microwave for 30-45 seconds, just to warm it up. Having the cream roughly the same temperature as the roux will help it thicken up faster.
Whisk the cream occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Once the cream begins to thicken, lower the heat slightly and add the cheeses, whisking to combine. If the sauce seems too thick, add more cream. Stir continuously until the cheeses have melted into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Add the cheese sauce to the cooked pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Optional step: If you want to bake the mac and cheese, make sure to under cook the pasta slightly. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer the mac and cheese mixture to a greased baking dish. Top with bread crumbs, a drizzle of olive oil, and a light sprinkle of cheese if desired. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling.