Jennie Tai
American Recipes

Recipe Box: The Cheesiest Mac & Cheese

This is for all the mac and cheese lovers who had any problems making it from scratch at home. If your mac and cheese was too oily, not creamy enough, or the cheese curdled and separated–this recipe is for you.

Ever encounter any of the following problems while trying to make mac and cheese at home? :

a) it was way too oily
b) the cheese curdled and separated from the sauce
c) there was no creamy texture

If not–kudos. 😉

If you have, here are a few tips on how to make the creamiest mac and cheese.

First, you want to consider starting with a roux-based sauce (also known as “mornay” or “bechamel” sauce) before you even think about tossing in any cheese. This will prevent the cheese from separating and will create that creamy, smooth texture.

The key is to heat a butter, flour and milk mixture before you throw in all that cheese (the roux-based sauce).

Also–make sure the cheese is finely grated. I like to use this 4-way box grater depending on how hard the cheese is. For softer cheeses–like mozzarella and cheddar–use the edge with the larger holes (otherwise they’ll get stuck in the smaller holes). For harder cheese–like parmesan–use the edge with the smaller holes.

RECIPE

For the Roux-Based Cheese Sauce:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup flour
4 cups milk
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar (or any other cheese you like, i.e. gruyere)

For the Mac:
2 1/2 cups dried macaroni pasta
prepared roux-sauce
2 tablespoons butter
*If you want to get fancy, you can add seasoned bread crumbs, bacon, chopped ham more cheese, or scallions on top

DIRECTIONS

1. Cook the Pasta: Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat in the pasta pot. Add the pasta and a tablespoon of salt. Cook until the pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat the Milk: When the pasta has finished cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. Begin warming 3 1/2 cup of milk in the saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and the flour until there are no lumps. When you just start to see tendrils of steam rising from the warming milk, whisk in the milk-and-flour mixture. Continue whisking gently until the milk thickens, 3-4 minutes.

3. Make the Cheese Sauce: Turn the heat to low and begin mixing handfuls of cheese into the milk. Stir in the salt and pepper. Stir until all the cheese has melted and the sauce is creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired (sometimes I throw a few pinches of mustard powder or garlic powder… or cayenne). Remove the sauce from heat.

4. Combine the Pasta and Sauce: In a large serving bowl, combine the pasta and 1/2 of the cheese sauce. Stir to coat the pasta evenly. Add the second half of the sauce and any extra add-ins (if you’re adding peas, ham, bacon, or anything else–add it in now).

This is a simple way to make macaroni and cheese from scratch. There are other variations (like caribbean baked macaroni and cheese or fried macaroni and cheese) but this is a good foundation recipe to start with.

Good luck!

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