It’s that time again where our resident chef at Tonight’s Better Together, Chef Choi, has come up with a recipe made just for you. Mac and cheese is a relatively simple dish but a crowd pleaser. Who doesn’t like abundant rich cheese and pasta? We thought it deserved a place in the ever growing Tonight’s Better Together cook book.
I love Mac and Cheese. I love all variations from the store bought box mac and cheese to mac and cheese made from scratch. Here is a simple and basic mac and cheese recipe with some added spices and flavors.
- 8-10oz Dry Macaroni Pasta (Penne works well too)
- 3 Tbs Unsalted Butter
- ¼ c AP Flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 ½ c Milk
- 3 c Mild Cheddar (or your favorite cheese or cheese mix)
- ½ tsp Dry Mustard
- 1/8 tsp Smoked Paprika
First you want to get a large pot filled with water. Rule of thumb is to use a pot that will give the pasta enough room to move around and not overflow onto your stove top. You want to first bring the pot of water to a roaring boil and then add several good pinches of salt. You want to be able to taste some of the salt, but not have it taste too much like seawater. Once it’s at a boil, add your pasta and cook per the instructions on the box. A helpful tip to avoid a boil-over, is to place a wooden spoon across the diameter of the top of your pot. This will act as a barrier so that the foam and bubbles don’t go any higher than the top of your pot. Once the pasta is done, strain it and then put it back in the empty pot with a little water. Leave this off the stove while you make your sauce.
While you wait for the water to boil or the pasta to cook, you can start making the cheese sauce. In a separate pot, at least 2 quarts in size, you want to melt the butter on medium to medium high being careful not to burn the butter. Next you want to add the flour and salt(and Dry mustard and Paprika if you have it). Stir this up with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. This is called a roux. You want to keep stirring this mixture until it starts to smell like popcorn, this means the thickening power is activating. Next, whisk in your milk in small portions at a time until it is smooth.
This is the point where the dish could go two different ways. If you are planning on baking your mac and cheese then pull the pot off the heat and whisk in the cheese.
If you do not plan on baking the dish, then you will need to continue to stir and the milk and roux mixture for at least 20-25 minutes. This will give the roux enough time to cook out any residual raw flour taste. Once the roux is cooked out, remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the cheese.
For the baked version, add the cheese sauce to the pasta and mix it all together. Taste your mac and cheese at this point and see if it needs more salt. Next, add the mac and cheese mixture to an oven safe baking dish and bake it for about 25-30 minutes at 375F.
For the regular version, add the cheese sauce to the pasta. Mix and serve!
Cheese: I like to use Gruyere, mild cheddar and a little Parmesan as my Mac and cheese mix.
Baked version: If you are feeling fancy, you can top your mac and cheese with more cheese and/or bread crumbs right before you bake it so you can have a cheesy crunchy topping.
Additions: Sometimes I like to add cooked bacon or braised pork belly. The best time to add this is when you are mixing the cheese sauce with the pasta. It makes for a more complete meal. You can add any type of meat that you prefer. Just make sure it is already cooked when you add it to the mixture. Leftovers work great in this dish such as turkey!