My first introduction to cheese was with Macaroni as a child. Being an Indian, Mac and cheese was a treat for me and was never a comfort food. Even today, I can’t refuse to another serving of Mac and cheese, if its made velvety, and creamy. You might find it silly, but making the perfect Mac and cheese is an art…. almost Every season of Masterchef Australia has an episode dedicated to Mac and cheese.
Though Mac and cheese is not a hard dish to make, it still can fail to perform sometimes. Overcooked, lumps in the sauce or too soft or too thick texture are few common mistakes. The secret of deliciousness is, the perfectly cooked macaroni mixed well with smooth creamy sauce.
There are so many versions, and variations of Mac and cheese out there you can try any of them. From baked Mac and cheese casserole to No-bake version or 2 minutes microwaved Mac and cheese mug.
I quickly want to start with Do’s and don’ts of making perfect Mac was cheese at home because all those points are randomly going in my head right now. Let’s get them listed here:
1. May sound weird but always undercook the macaroni. Cook it one minute less then the package directions, especially if you plan to bake. Cook the pasta in salted water. You must read this post here to know how to cook pasta perfectly. How to Cook Pasta Perfectly
2. Tossing the cooked pasta with butter provides a light coating that helps prevent it to dilates.
3. Always, let the pasta cool before mixing in with the sauce.
4. Mostly white sauce (also known as a roux) is used as a base for the cheesy sauce for Mac and cheese. Chef Gorden Ramsay has use sauteed onion, mushrooms, along with fresh cream combined with cheese for one of his Mac and cheese recipe. Which by the way turns out absolutely delicious.
As I mentioned earlier, there are so many versions and variations of Mac and cheese out there. You must try new and interesting ways once you nail the basic recipe.
5. When making perfect white sauce (roux),
In a medium saucepan heat, the milk with salt until little bubbling or you can heat milk in the microwave to save time.
In another pan, melt the butter until foaming. Remove from heat, add flour, stir well with a whisk or a spoon and return to heat. Paying attention to not over brown it.
Remove from heat. Start adding hot milk and continue stir with a whisk until smooth.
Return to heat and simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (or a whisk), until sauce comes to a boil, thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon (about 5 minutes).
Add the grated cheese and stir well.
6. For More creamy flavour increase the quantity of cream and decrease the quantity of milk mentioned in the recipe below. Don’t bother counting the calories.
7. Choose the pasta shape smartly, anything that will hold the sauce or have deep ridges – shell, corkscrew rotini.
8. Considered interesting flavouring – Cayenne pepper, mustard powder, jalapeños, Italian seasoning.
9. Today we are not baking but if you want to go for baked version – Bake your mac and cheese in a more shallow, wider dish if you want more of that crunchy top.
10. You can actually use any cheese you want, just make sure that it’s a melting cheese (e.g. don’t use feta, cream cheese). I meet a French cheesemonger the other day and we had a long conversation on cheese. If you want to know more about cheese, read this Meeting with a Cheese Monger
11. I generally use sharp cheddar for mac and cheese, as I love the flavour. Today, I have added mozzarella along with the cheddar. It melts really well into the sauce, has that nice stretch.
12. Mac and Cheese are best made fresh but if you need to make ahead, this is the best way – Cook pasta and toss in butter, cool. Make cheese sauce per recipe, then cool and transfer to a clean bowl. Cover it with a cling wrap, making sure that the cling wrap is touching the top surface of the sauce in the bowl. Make topping, if any. Store all components separately in the fridge until required. Mix sauce and pasta, before serving.
13. Best way to reheat it in the microwave, adding few spoonfuls of milk.
14. You can add a dash of good quality mustard sauce to the white sauce. This will take the whole dish to the next level.
American Garden U.S Mustard, 227g
1/2 pound elbow macaroni
Disano Elbow Durum Wheat Pasta, 500g
2 tablespoons of butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Kraft Processed Cheddar Cheese, 250g
4 ounces mozzarella, shredded
Salt and pepper, to taste
A dash of mustard sauce
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box, then drain; set aside.
In a large Dutch oven or saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine, then cook. Make the sauce keeping all those points in mind mentioned above.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in the hot milk until smooth. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, whisking continuously.
Add the cheese, a handful at a time, whisking well after each addition and not adding more until the previous handful is fully melted and incorporated. Season to taste with mustard, salt and pepper.
Add the drained pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to combine, Serve immediately. You can top it up with some cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs.