Monday, May 21, 2012

Comfort Food: Macaroni and Cheese

Making macaroni and cheese from scratch is very very easy.  You should try it.

First make the sauce, then cook the pasta, drain the pasta, toss together in a large bowl, place in serving bowl, bring to table, eat it all up!  So easy.

White Sauce with Cheese
Melt 1 stick butter in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.  When just melted, whisk in one-half cup flour and whisk until completely combined and smooth.  Let cook for two minutes to get the "raw" flour taste to disappear.   Carefully stir in 2 cups milk and whisk until smooth.  When the sauce begins to thicken, which it does fairly quickly, particularly if you pre-warm the milk, add 2 MORE cups milk and stir until thick-ish again.  When the sauce is thickened, add 2-3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese and stir until melted and smooth again.  Take pot off the heat and cover. 

Things I often add to the above:  freshly ground black pepper,  granulated garlic--a little bit, parsley-up to a tablespoon,  leftover homemade French onion dip (you know, the kind you make with 2 cups real sour cream and one packet Lipton's Onion Soup Mix),  even some of the garlic-y, cheese-y salsa from a party you had two nights ago.  It all tastes great.  I also often squirt in some nice honey mustard. That adds a GREAT flavor.

While you are making the above sauce you can start a large pot full of water boiling for the pasta.  Use one pound macaroni, or if you like to live on the edge,  choose something like rotini, or how about some VEGETABLE rotini?  The smaller stuff like orzo is not so great. It all just seems like glop and is rather unappealing though it still tastes plenty good.

When cooking the pasta,  add 1-2 teaspoons of salt to the boiling water and cook to the "dente" that you like.  Some of us like it well-cooked, and even mushy, but you might like it "al dente".  Go for it if that is was you like.

When the pasta is cooked to your pleasure, pour it into a colander in your sink to drain then put into a large bowl.  With a rubber scraper, scrape the cheese sauce on top of the pasta and give it a thorough stir to coat all the macaroni/rotini/fusilli/etc with sauce.  You can now serve it immediately in a pretty serving bowl, or you can place it in a casserole dish, sprinkle on some bread crumbs and let it "brown" in the oven.  This is what you would do if you are making this in the morning for supper and need to refrigerate during the day.  When you get home, put it in the oven (on a cookie sheet if the casserole dish you are using is filled to the top because you can have overflow--though if you have cooked your pasta to al dente, the sauce will have been absorbed and you will have a rather drier macaroni and cheese than cooking and eating immediately.

This is pretty good with a big fat vegetable-filled green salad, or with some nice homemade coleslaw.

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