Macaroni and Cheese

This one’s an original recipe. I’ve been trying to find a good mac and cheese recipe for like two years now, not that I’ve been trying very hard.

My mom makes a Velveeta macaroni and cheese that’s pretty good, but the problem with Velveeta macaroni and cheese is that it’s a little gluey and the taste is a little more American cheese than cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I like American cheese, Velveeta, and Kraft macaroni and cheese, but I’ve been trying to find a good recipe for mac and cheese with real cheese.

I first tried Mark Bittman’s mac and cheese recipe, but I didn’t like the consistency, and, like most Bittman recipes, it was too vague and not very flavorful. Next I tried a recipe off a package of elbow macaroni (I don’t remember the brand). That one had good consistency, but wasn’t very flavorful. A few months ago, I tried Alton Brown’s macaroni and cheese recipe (his baked one, not the stovetop one). The flavor was good, but the consistency was terrible. I don’t know if I did something wrong, but the cheese sauce was curdy.

This one is my own recipe. It’s based on Alton’s recipe, but cuts the sauce down a bit, increases the roux-to-milk ratio, and removes the egg (the cheese sauce is based more on the afore-mentioned pasta package recipe).

This recipe still isn’t perfect. I want to experiment with the cheese, possibly substituting in a creamier cheese like jack or muenster for part of the cheddar. I might play with seasoning the breadcrumbs on top and/or adding cheese to the topping. You could also add ham or bacon to this.

Macaroni and Cheese

Servings: 4-6
Cooking Time: ~45 minutes

Ingredients

Fancy ingredient picture because I am a fancy food blogger

Fancy ingredient picture because I am a fancy food blogger

  • 1/2 lb (1 3/4 cup) elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk (I used 2 cups whole + 1/2 cup skim)
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (about 8 oz)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbl powdered mustard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 cup finely diced/minced onion
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
    In case you don't know what elbow macaroni looks like...

    In case you don’t know what elbow macaroni looks like…

  2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. You want to take it just a hair past al dente.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium heat melt the butter. With a whisk, blend in the flour, salt, pepper, and mustard. Cook for a couple of minutes until you have a thin, light brown paste.
    Basically, this is a bechamel. The roux/liquid ratio might be different from a true bechamel.

    Basically, this is a bechamel. The roux/liquid ratio might be different from a true bechamel.

  4. Slowly stir in the milk, a splash at a time, fully mixing in each addition. Stir in the onion, bay leaf, and paprika.
  5. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and begins to bubble.
    Now that there's cheese in it, the bechamel is a mornay, although a true mornay uses gruyere if I recall correctly.

    Now that there’s cheese in it, the bechamel is a mornay, although a true mornay uses gruyere if I recall correctly.

  6. Fish out the bay leaf with a fork. Add the cheese and stir until melted.
    Look at that cheesy mess

    Look at that cheesy mess

  7. Stir together the pasta and cheese sauce in a 1.5-2 quart casserole dish. Top with the bread crumbs.
    Now with  more bread crumbs!

    Now with more bread crumbs!

  8. Bake 30 minutes, then turn on the broiler and move to the top rack for ~3 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown.
  9. Cool for 10 minutes or so to let the cheese set up and so you don’t burn your face.
    Mmmm...gooey...

    Mmmm…gooey…

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4 comments

  1. I would have thought you’d saute the onions first; do they soften enough in the sauce/oven without sauteing? (You’re right about Bittman’s M&C–it’s really awful.) Touch of cayenne might be good too.

    1. I would have thought so too, but not sautéing the onions is taken from Alton’s recipe. (It’s one of the few things in that recipe that work.) I cut them pretty finely, and I didn’t notice any crunchy or uncooked onions in the final product.

      The cayenne is a good idea. I put some seasoned salt on the leftovers and it improved them. (I know you sprinkle that on your crumb topping.)

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