I’ve been on a mac and cheese rampage lately, searching for that one true recipe: creamy sauce, lots of cheese, and an extra crisp [crack]ly topping. I’ve tracked down and tried two recipes in as many weeks, which for a household without any children translates into an awful lot of mac and cheese. The recipe here – featured recently on Food 52 from Martha Stewart – comes very very close. Perfect crispy topping. Tons of great cheese flavor. But the texture is where I’m missing something – it’s creamy sure, but sort of saucy instead of strictly cheesy.
John thinks the missing secret ingredient I’ve been pining for may come in a yellow box and start with a “v,” but I’m still holding out hope for a magic recipe waiting around the corner. Until then, I’m perfectly happy much on bowls of this. And good thing because be forewarned this recipe makes A LOT of mac and cheese. Martha says it yields 12 servings, but I’d wager something closer to 16. 2 lbs and $20.00 worth of cheese later, I may be in leftovers slightly over my head. Be sure to cut the recipe down to suit your household appetite.
Happy Friday Everyone!
(my adaptation of) Martha’s Mac and Cheese
The recipe below is close to the original. I kept the ratios (pasta to cheese to milk) the same, but simplified some of the directions and measurements. I also added in some ground mustard and grated onion not called for in the original recipe and substituted bread cubes for panko on top.
- 1 lb macaroni
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 5 ½ cups whole or 2% milk
- 2 tsp salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tsp ground mustard (optional)
- 2 tbsp finely grated onion (optional)
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg or to taste
- 2 lbs grated cheese – I used about 1 lb sharp cheddar (for bite); ½ lb gruyere (for flavor); and ½ lb fontina (for creaminess). Use whatever cheese(s) you like – Martha does cheddar, gruyere, and pecorino.
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook 3 minutes less than what the box tells you – you want it extra al dente. Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside.
Meanwhile, use 1 tbsp of the butter to grease a 9 by 13 inch (3 quart) casserole dish and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat and add 5 tbsp of the butter to melt, reserving 2 tbsp for topping. Once melted, add the flour and stir to create a paste. Slowly add the milk, whisking as you go so no lumps are formed. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens – this will happen as it get close to boiling. Add the salt, pepper, ground mustard, grated onion, nutmeg, and all but 2 cups of the grated cheese (save this for topping.) Stir until the cheese is melted.
Next, add the cooked macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and top with the remaining cheese. Dot with the remaining 2 tbsps butter and sprinkle over the panko.
Bake 30 minutes, then increase the heat to 500 degrees and bake an additional 5 minutes to brown.