Mac and cheese. It’s the ultimate comfort food. We all remember loving the neon orange stuff we made from the box when we were kids. Truth be known, many of us grown ups have whipped up a box and eaten it right out of the pot. One of our family’s favorite Mac and cheese stories involves a father, daughter dinner while I was out of town for work. Dad boiled the elbow macaroni to perfection and added the contents of the powdered cheese packet and the butter. What he forgot to do was drain the water from the pasta. Comfort food.
My Mac and cheese never tastes the same twice because I love mixing up the cheeses. But I always remember to drain the pasta.
1 onion diced (about a cup)
6 T of butter
4 T flour
4 cups 2% or whole milk
2 T franks hot sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
fresh grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups of grated cheese; 3 or 4 varieties…you choose
14-16 oz box of pasta…you choose…cooked al dente per package instructions
Preheat your oven to 375.
In a heavy kettle or Dutch oven melt the butter. Add the diced onion and sauté over medium heat until tender but not browned. I had some poblano pepper left from another recipe so today I added that as well.
Once the onions are tender add the flour and make the roux. Cook for a minute or two stirring constantly.
Begin slowly adding the milk and continue stirring until it begins to thicken. Add the franks, the dry mustard, and salt and pepper.
Once the mixture has thickened begin adding the cheese a handful at a time and stir until the cheese is melted. Add another handful and so on until all of the cheese has been incorporated. Today I used a sharp Vermont cheddar, asiago, and fontina. I usually like using a bit of smoky cheese like a smoked Gouda but no smoked cheese in my cheese drawer.
Grate some fresh nutmeg into the cheese mixture.
Drain, but do not rinse, your pasta. Save a cup of the pasta water in case you need to add some liquid. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce, stir and pour into a lightly greased casserole dish.
Find some bread in your fridge and use your food processor to make some bread crumbs. Today I had some challah so I used that and added some fresh parsley in the food processor. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a skillet and toast the bread crumbs a bit. Sprinkle the crumbs over the Mac and cheese.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and the top has crisped up and browned a bit.
Enjoy as a side dish or as a meal in itself. Great with greens, broccoli or fresh green beans.
I grew up in a rural area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and attended a small school. We used to enjoy hearty homemade hot lunches that were really very good. Fridays were tuna casserole (not my fav), Mac and cheese or Welsh Rarebit days. The hot lunch version of Welsh Rarebit was very similar to this Mac and cheese recipe minus the pasta. The cheese sauce was served over toasted white bread that had been cubed. It was one of my favorites.
Enjoy the Mac and cheese. It’s what’s for dinner.