On a chilly night what could be more comforting than a dish of creamy macaroni and cheese. The recipes in Laura Washburn’s cookbook, Mac ‘N’ Cheese: Traditional and Inspired Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food (available at Hammertown) start with this fabulous “base recipe” for Classic Macaroni & Cheese. The cookbook goes on to introduce us to delicious, new variations using meats, seafood and seasonal vegetables: Butternut Squash & Sage…Chard & Gruyere or how about Spicy Beef…Chicken Alfredo or Serrano Ham, Smoked Paprika & Spanish Blue. Crunchy, golden, gooey and satisfying, Mac ‘n’ Cheese will keep you warm all through Fall and Winter.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This simple recipe makes a creamy macaroni and cheese that can be used as a base for further experimentation. Combining two mild cheeses, such as Cheddar and Monterrey Jack, gives this dish a delicious depth of flavor.
- a handful of coarse sea salt
- 500g/1 lb. macaroni
- 50g/1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
FOR THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE
- 50g/3½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 60g/6 tablespoons plain/all-purpose flour
- 625ml/2½ cups milk
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 150g/1¼ cups grated Monterrey Jack or other mild, semi-hard cheese
- 150g/1¼ cups grated medium Cheddar
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the coarse sea salt, the let the water return to a rolling boil. Add the macaroni, stir well and cook according to the package instructions until very tender. Stir periodically to prevent the macaroni from sticking together. When cooked, drain, rinse well under running water and let drip dry in a colander.
Preheat the grill/broiler to medium.
To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Pour in the milk in a steady stream, whisking constantly, and continue to whisk for 3-5 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Season with fine sea salt. Remove from the heat and add the cheeses, mixing well with a spoon to incorporate. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Put the cooked macaroni in a large mixing bowl. Pour over the hot béchamel sauce and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Transfer the macaroni mixture to a baking dish and spread evenly. Top with a good grinding of black pepper and sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top. Grill/broil for 5-10 minutes until the top is crunchy and golden brown. Serve immediately.