"Christmas is coming"
Have you ever been to a Christmas dinner without mac and cheese? I can say with a certainty that I have never been to any form of family dinner or special occasion that did not have macaroni and cheese in some form. So here it is, my simple, easy, cheesy and delicious version of the classic. I’m sure you’re thinking, I already know how to make this, but you don’t know how to make it like me :)
Everyone has that one person in the family who always makes the Mac n cheese. In our family that is my sister, she makes a very good one, and she enjoys it. If the mere mention of family dinner or cook out is uttered from anyone's mouth, she is quick to say " I will do the mac and cheese". I always suspect its because she does not want to be tasked with anything else. So in order to avoid getting lets say...rice and peas, she hurries and picks the mac and cheese. A dish she can do way ahead of time before anyone even gets into the kitchen and be out and about doing her own thing while the rest of us slave away. Yes Jannae I know your trick! But I digress...she basically follows the same rules and recipe ingredient as I do. I would say this method and recipe stemmed from years of trial and error on both our parts always trying to make a better mac and cheese than our last. The results are a rich creamy and very cheesy dish.
The most important part of the recipe is the cheese (obviously). But what I mean is the main cheese you use sets the tone for the whole flavor of the dish. So if you use mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, the kraft cheese sachets, assiago etc. it makes a difference in the flavor. I always try and find a very rich robust flavored cheddar as the main cheese, then complement it with other cheeses which add to the texture and added flavor. I found an aged cheddar and decided to use that for the strong cheesy flavor I was after. As for the other cheese the smoked gouda added the Smokey nutty flavor that I love. Mozzarella always adds a subtle gooey creaminess and pepper jack for a little kick.
Now for the most important secret ingredient, ONION! This is the make or break ingredient. Nothing enhances mac and cheese better than onion and garlic. We never make it without adding it to the mix. We use to play around with the ratio of onion to garlic. In the early days we went heavy on the garlic, with no onion. Then it evolved to equal amounts of garlic to onion. Then we realized the garlic needs to be more of a hint while the onion flavor needs to be predominant for balance (Mac and cheese is a science I tell you). So we came up with using 1 onion:1 garlic clove. If you have never added onion to your mac and cheese you need to try it out. Play around with the types of cheese you use. Try to use at least three with different attributes and flavors.
Ingredients: (printable recipe)
1lb box elbow pasta
2 tablespoon salt (for boiling water)
4 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoon flour
3-4 cups evaporated milk/cream or whole milk
1 medium/small onion
1 garlic clove
3 cups Kerrygold vintage cheddar (any aged cheddar)
1 cup mozzarella
1 cup pepper jack
2 cup smoked Gouda
1 tablespoon smoked salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Set a pot of water and salt to boil
- Add the pasta and cook for 11 minutes
- Strain in a colander and wash with cold water until the pasta is no longer hot
- Blend the onion, garlic and milk together
- Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat and melt the butter
- Add the flour to the butter and cook for a minute do not burn
- Add the onion/milk mixture to the butter and flour mixture stir for a while it will get thick very quickly
- As soon as it gets thick add the cheese (reserving some for the topping)
- Once all the cheeses have melted and the sauce is a creamy consistency add the pasta stir until all the elbows are fully coated
- Pour into a baking dish, sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese
- Bake until the top is golden brown and crispy
- You can use regular salt if you don't have smoked salt.
- Make sure not to over cook the pasta. 11 minutes maximum so you have nice chewy pieces.
- For the record you don't have to grease the baking dish for macaroni and cheese. Remember this dish is full of butter, milk and cheese there is enough fat in there that it will grease the baking pan itself. I never grease my pan and my mac and cheese never stick.
- Also if you use skim milk or any type of watered down milk product your cheese sauce may not thicken up as easily if you use four cups. So use 2 to 3 cups of milk and you may have to add an extra teaspoon of flour to the butter as well.