Cook: The Ultimate Mac & Cheese
I have a confession to make: I don’t much rate creamy pastas. I will ALWAYS opt for the sharp, sweet tomato based sauced over a carbonara or alfredo… with one exception to the rule: this macaroni cheese recipe. This is the ultimate mac & cheese, and yeah I know that’s a big claim but I can absolutely stand by it as a total fact.
It came about several years back, when I got an unusual hankering for mac & cheese and went looking for a recipe. This one has come about after many years of playing around with spices, herbs and flavourings. It’s perfect because the white sauce will work equally as well with low-fat milk as it will with full-fat (depending on what you have lying around, it doesn’t demand the fanciest of parmesan cheeses (but it loves something sharp and crumbly) and it can be poured over steamed cauliflower or broccoli, in the instance you just don’t feel like carbs. (As if that’s ever an instance that occurs!)
It’s like a warm hug in your mouth: the cheese and mustard is sharp, the white sauce is creamy and the hint of nutmeg adds a certain savoury je-ne-sais-quoi. You’ll never EVER go back to lurid-yellow boxed mac & cheese after this. Never.
Once you’ve got the hang of the ratios, it’s easy to scale this recipe up and down to suit the number of people you have to feed or how many leftover meals you want. I literally no longer EVER follow a recipe, I can taste if it’s wrong immediately.
Mac & Cheese (feeds 3-4)
- 2 cups uncooked macaroni/elbow pasta/shells/whatever tickles your fancy)
- 2 tbs butter
- 2tbs plain flour
- 1/2 cups milk
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and diced as finely as possible
- 2 dashes nutmeg
- 1 tbs mustard (I prefer Dijon, but seeded works well here too)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese + more to sprinkle on top
- Handful breadcrumbs
- Bring a pot of water to the boil over a high heat and cook pasta to packet instructions
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over a medium cheese and add the flour. Stir constantly to make dough and cook off for a minute or two, being careful not to burn it. (If you burn it, start again)
- Get a whisk and pour in a small amount of the milk, whisking it quickly into the dough. Add the rest of the milk slowly but steadily and whisk continuously for a few minutes until the sauce coats the back of a spoon
- Add the garlic, nutmeg and mustard and whisk a further few minutes
- Remove the pot from the heat and add the parmesan. Taste and season with pepper. Add more parmesan if you like it cheesier. Add a little salt if you think it needs it. Be careful with the salt, you can overdo it very easily here.
- Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to combine
- Pour into a bake-proof dish, top with the breadcrumbs and more parmesan cheese. Pop under a grill until crispy and golden (a few minutes should do it)
Alternatives: You can add steamed broccoli or cauliflower, mushrooms, roasted pumpkin or sweet potato cubes, bacon, parsley, basil, oregano and/or a dash of Tabasco to jazz this up further in step six, should those things float your boat.