I make a lot of “adult” mac and cheeses (with strong cheeses and funky add-in’s) to accompany steaks in our house. For once, however, I decided I wanted to make a “real” mac and cheese: very traditional, using regular cheese (such as cheddar), and using white sauce.
As I was looking for an easy homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, a lot of sources seemed to be pointing to Martha Stewart macaroni and cheese, so that seemed like a good place to start.
Martha’s recipe calls for 1 pound of elbow macaroni, which produces a huge amount of pasta, so I halved the recipe, using 1/2 pound of elbow macaroni instead of 1 pound, and halving the rest of ingredients. Even after I halved the recipe, it still produced quite a lot of pasta – enough to make 6 or 8 very rich servings. I also reduced the amount of cheese to sprinkle over top as the original amount called for in the recipe seemed excessive. Also, the recipe calls for Kosher salt, which is less salty than table salt, so because I used regular table salt, I reduced the salt amount accordingly. A reminder to myself: always pay attention to what salt the recipe calls for: Kosher or table salt.
I highly recommend halving the recipe, because 1) I can’t imagine using a total of 6 cups of cheese for any kind of dish (3 cups will do), and 2) because I found that this mac and cheese has the best and the creamiest quality when served right after it’s made. If leftovers are reheated the next day, the macaroni get mushy, and the sauce itself get thicker, so you have to add milk and manipulate to achieve the same wonderful consistency as on the day you made it.
The breadcrumbs do become soggy if you reheat this dish in microwave, so to make the most out of this recipe, I would not recommend making it in advance and then reheating: too many qualities are lost.
This recipe is definitely worth making and is a great base recipe for further experiments! The macaroni and cheese when served straight out of the oven come out creamy, buttery, with very crisp breadcrumbs on top. The whole top layer of mac and cheese has this nice golden brown texture.
Easy homemade macaroni and cheese
Total time: 1 hour
Adapted from Martha Stewart.
- 1 cup white bread crumbs (I used regular bread in food processor)
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
- 2 and 3/4 cups milk
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more – to taste)
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups (about 9 ounces) grated sharp yellow or white cheddar
- 3/4 cup grated Gruyere, or pecorino Romano, or Parmesan
- 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
Serves 6 to 8 people
1) Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 1.5-quart casserole dish; set aside. I placed several bread slices in the food processor and processed them until they turned into nice bread crumbs – enough to fill 1 cup. Place 1 cup of bread crumbs in a medium bowl, add 1 tablespoon of melted butter, mix, set aside.
2) In a medium pan, heat milk until it boils. In a separate pan or a skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter, add 1/4 cup of flour, cook and stir for about 1 minute to form a roux.
3) Pour hot milk into the hot flour-butter mixture gradually, while whisking. Continue cooking the mixture, constantly stirring, on medium or high heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens – about 1 or 2 minutes.
4) Remove the pan from the heat. Add salt, nutmeg, black pepper, 1 and 1/2 cups cheddar, and 1/2 cup Gruyere, or pecorino Romano, or Parmesan. While off heat, whisk until all cheese is melted and the cheese sauce has even consistency. Set aside.
5) Bring a large saucepan with water to boil. Add macaroni, cook 3 minutes less than indicated in manufacturer’s directions, so that pasta is still undercooked inside (the pasta will continue cooking as it bakes in step 6). Transfer macaroni to a colander and rinse under cold running water really well. Running the pasta under cold water will stop the cooking and will wash off the excess starch. Drain pasta well. Add drained macaroni to the cheese sauce.
6) Pour the pasta with cheese sauce into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar and 1/4 cup Gruyere (or pecorino Romano, or Parmesan). Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top. Transfer dish to a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then serve.