Macaroni + Cheese

9 Sep

and cheese!I was watching BSA make lunch for his son to take to school the other day – it was mac + cheese from a box. That haunted me for days – the bright orange glow of the cheese powder. It really disturbed me πŸ˜‰ So tonight, when I was considering what to make for dinner, I decided to do a home made macaroni + cheese, and see how long it took to do. To be honest, this is a quick, easy meal. Absolutely delicious and probably 10 – 15 minutes worth of work in total. And the taste is so much better that really, there is no comparison.

You can make it vegan by substituting margarine for butter, Daiya rice cheese for the cheddar and parmesan, and soy milk (my favourite these days is Silk) for the milk. It turns out really well, especially if you pay attention to the seasonings, and taste taste taste. I baked the whole thing in a loaf pan because it was easy and I had just used the pan when I made the zucchini bread the day before. You can use any pan, the wider and shallower, the more burnt cheese topping you get! πŸ˜‰

Macaroni and cheese can be a bit overwhelming just as is. So I like to mix it up a bit. In this version, I added a handful of sundried tomatoes. In another, you could add truffle oil and dried portobello mushrooms. In yet another, a handful of frozen spinach. It doesnt have to be a lot of work to cut through all that cheesy cheese-ness, but it can be a bit of a relief. Though it must be said, there is something about a purely mac and cheese dish that is deeply soothing. That bland perfection does wonders for a tired soul.

This dish will serve 4 – 6 depending on greed

  • 3 – 4 cups dried pasta – penne, macaroni, etc
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt (plus 1 tsp for boiling pasta)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (or dried portobello mushrooms and a dash of truffle oil or 1/2 cup spinach or broccoli … as you wish) – optional
  • 1 – 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (to taste) – note that you can also add other cheeses as per your desire – crumbled feta, blue, jack, etc.
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 breadcrumbs

Take the milk out of the fridge, measure out 2 cups, and set aside. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a dash of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Read the instructions on the pasta packet, and add the pasta. You will cook it until it is about 2 minutes before al dente, so if it says to cook for 9 minutes, keep the pasta in for only 7 minutes!

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbling, add the flour, and cook this roux, stirring all the time, until it is browned. You want it a nice tan – not quite coffee coloured, but may be toffee coloured! This will add a huge depth of flavour. Add salt and pepper. Once the roux is browned to your liking, add the room temperature milk in increments of 1/4 – 1/3 of a cup. You want to add the milk slowly to enable the sauce to slowly thicken… if you add it all at once, you will have blobs of browned flour floating in the milk! This is the main reason why you want the milk at room temperature, so that incorporating it into the roux is much easier.

Once the first 1/2 cup of milk has been incorporated, add the basil, oregano, paprika and sun dried tomatoes (if using). Continue to add the milk, stirring all the while. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Take the hot seasoned sauce off the fire, and add the cheddar cheese, tasting and adjusting after about 1 cup. You may need up to 2 cups.

Drain the pasta, and set aside.

Add 1/4 cup of the parmesan, and mix well. Taste and adjust any seasonings. Add the pasta to the sauce, and mix to combine completely.

Mix the remaining parmesan with the breadcrumbs.

Put the macaroni and cheese into a baking dish, sprinkle with the breadcrumb parmesan mixture.

Bake for about half an hour, broiling for the last few minutes if you like a super crispy top.

Never go back to box mac + cheese again!

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