Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese has become a staple on lunch and dinner tables all over the country. It is a go-to for many families when challenged with appeasing the picky palates of younger diners. But it is a dish enjoyed by people from every generation and had just as many incarnations. Some people make it a la minute, some bake and serve it. No matter which way you go, it is delicious.

My version is a combination of the two, sort of. It can really be taken either way. However, I do like to stress that I, personally, like mine super-fresh and made at the last minute, so that the cheese is stretchy and gooey as you pull it out of the pan.

My one cook’s tip to making excellent mac and cheese is to undercook your pasta, slightly. It should be on the firmer side of al dente before you add it to t recipe. Consider the fact that you will be cooking it all again so the added heat should bring your pasta right up to its perfect potential when it si ready to serve. Good luck!

Béchamel (base for Mac and Cheese)

3 oz butter

½ c minced onion

3 oz flour

6 c milk

½ t white pepper

kosher salt, to taste

pinch nutmeg

In a small pot, heat the milk over medium heat adding the salt, pepper and nutmeg. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter then add the onions and sauté lightly. Add the flour and whisk it together to create a roux. Cook the roux for a couple of minutes, until it starts to generate a nutty aroma. Add the milk and reduce the heat, whisking until it all comes together. The sauce will begin to thicken. Once it is thick, remove from the heat.

6 c cooked pasta (whichever is your favorite)

4 c shredded cheese (again, whatever is your favorite – I like to mix cheddar, pepperjack and Swiss)

2 c panko bread crumbs

4 T melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350. Toss the bread crumbs with the butter and set aside. Place the large pot with the béchamel over medium heat and add your cooked pasta and 3 c of your cheese. Stir to mix it all together and heat it just slightly. Transfer the mac and cheese mixture to a buttered casserole or baking dish, top it with the remaining cheese and the bread crumbs and put it in the oven for 20 minutes or until the bread crumbs are toasted brown and the mac and cheese is heated through. Serve immediately.

As a side note, my family is small but this recipe works well for us. I hate reheating mac and cheese so I make a batch of béchamel and cook pasta and keep them both in the fridge. Whenever we want just a bit I take the some of the béchamel and put it in a saute pan. I bring it up slowly then add my pasta, cheese and bread crumbs directly to the pan. I put the whole pan in the oven and cook it just like that, serving from the pan onto individual plates or bowls.