I never grew up with mac and cheese. My mother wasn’t an orange cheese kind of person, by extension neither am I. Kraft mac and cheese isn’t my kind of thing. I often find that’s the kind of thing you love if you grew up with it. I can’t put it in my mouth.
My other half introduced me to home-made mac and cheese, previous to that my only exposure was Annie’s Mac & Cheese. They make a killer cheddar mac and cheese and that’s pretty much the jumping off point for this recipe. This recipe can be made with any manner of pasta. This particular time we made it with egg noodles but we more often make it with a mini penne or ziti type pasta. You can use whatever you like for the most part. Those shapes that hold onto cheese more effectively are quite obviously more desirable.
To start you’ll need some pasta. I’ve stated my preference on pasta. Again we used egg noodles on this particular night just because….well just because. Follow the directions on the package and under cook it. If it calls for 9 minutes you’ll want to take it out after five or six minutes. It’ll continue being cooked after it comes out of the water and you don’t want over cooked pasta. Over cooked pasta is squishy and not anything you want to be around. It’s just unkind, to yourself and anyone you might inflict it upon. Pasta responsibly.
cooked under cooked your pasta you’ll want to drain it and put it back into the pot. The first things you’ll want to add are basically everything but the cheese. You’ll be keeping it over the heat, figure medium low (3-4 on your electric range.) One teaspoon of Dijon style mustard (stone ground, Grey Poupon, something along those lines,) 4 tablespoons of butter (1/2 a stick,) around 3 tablespoons of AP flour, and enough milk to get the desired consistency – let’s say around 1/2 of a cup as a good starting point. Heat that all together until well mixed and warm.
I’m a fan of cheddar, so we used a good deal of that. Figure 8 ounces of cheddar. You could very well use pepper jack, a combination of cheeses, or swiss. Whatever floats your boat. You’ll need to shred it. We also have a thing for Reggiano Parmesan, so anything that’s cheese related some of this goes in. It’s not cheap and it is an acquired taste. So if you’re not interested don’t feel bad. You could use Romano or any hard cheese for that matter. Use as much as you like and if you’re like us that’s quite a bit. Whatever you do, please don’t substitute that dried shake out clumpy Parmesan in a glass jar that bad Italian restaurants have at the table. That stuff is barely cheese. And it will ruin your mac and cheese in no short order. Add the cheese at the end, remove from heat and allow to meld together by continuing to stir as it melts. At this point you’ll want to add a bit more milk to finalize the consistency. It’ll probably take about 1/4 cup. Go easy at first however, you don’t want to overdo it. Lest you need to add more cheese.
At this point you should have a nice cheesy emulsion and a mac and cheese that’s light years beyond the orange stuff. There’s really no comparison. Depending on your tastes you may want to add some salt and pepper. Some cheese is salty, some is not. So taste and add as needed. We almost always add a decent amount of salt and some pepper. But we like salt. A lot.
This is a quick and tasty dish that’s good as a snack, a quick dinner, lunch….just about any time. It’s really quick to make and I promise it’ll knock your socks off if all you know about mac and cheese is the old orange standby.
For a full box of pasta, which should serve about four people, you’ll need the following:
- 1 Pound of Pasta (Whatever Kind You Like)
- 3/4 Cup of Milk (Total)
- 8 Ounces of Cheddar (Or Swiss, Pepper Jack, etc…) – Shredded
- 1 Teaspoon of Dijon Mustard
- Reggiano Parmesan (To Taste) – Or Other Hard Cheese (Romano, etc…)
- 4 Tablespoons of Butter
- 3 Tablespoons of AP Flour
- Salt and Pepper To Taste