mac + cheese
Mac + cheese. I remember it as one of the only things I would eat as a picky kid. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you just need a box of the blue for nostalgia’s sake. That being said, I’ve been testing any and every recipe that I could, searching for the one to call the créme de la créme of homemade mac but they only led to a lot of ‘meh’. This recipe is a gem.
You grater and your favorite hot sauce will be key for this dish. If you’re not a fan of heat or spice, trust me and invest in some Cholula Hot Sauce. It doesn’t necessarily add heat, but lends some amazing flavor that takes this mac to another level.
I also had a zucchini in my fridge that needed to be used up so I grated it and squeezed most of the liquid out of the zuc to add later to the mac. You can feel free to omit it or add whatever you like in the final steps of this dish but I prefer a green veggie with my mac. I also recommend that one of the two cheeses you use be an extra sharp cheddar and that you grate all the cheese on the smaller set of grates for easier melting.
I used my beloved cast iron skillet that’s mostly used for cooking up bacon but it also transitions easily from stove top to the oven (there may have had some bacon fat left over from my last cooking session…even better!). Feel free to use whatever you have for your stove top and transition the mac to a baking dish for the last step.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 8 cups of water
- 1/8 cup of salt
- 4 oz. (½ cup) extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 oz. (½ cup) white cheddar or monterey jack cheese, grated
- 2 cups of milk
- 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 2.5-3 tablespoons flour
- ½ lb. pasta (I only had rotini in my pantry and it worked just fine, but you definitely want a pasta that will hold onto the sauce well)
In a dutch oven or medium size sauce pan, boil 8 cups of water. Season the boiling water with 1/8 cup of salt. Cook your pasta according to the directions. Drain + set aside.
Time to make a roux! Oh. I guess I should explain that a roux is a common thickener for sauces usually consisting of butter and flour. It’s fairly easy to make, just make sure you keep an eye on it. Carry on…
Microwave 2 cups of milk for 3 minutes.
In a cast iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of butter/margarine.
Once the butter is melted, add 2.5-3 tablespoons of flour and mix well with a whisk.
Once the flour is incorporated, slowly start to whisk in the hot milk.
Keep an eye on this and whisk the milk every once in a while. You’ll start to see it thicken and bubble which is exactly what you want for the base of your cheese sauce. Check out the video below
Turn down the heat if you need to, you don’t want to burn your roux. Once your starter is nice and thick add both of your grated cheeses and season with some freshly ground black pepper.
Add 1 teaspoon of hot sauce and mix well.
Using a spatula, add in your cooked pasta and turn to mix well.
Add your grated zucchini (optional) and mix.
Here you can add panko crumbs to the top and a sprinkle of olive oil before you broil in the oven, but I omitted it. If you’re not using something that can transfer to the oven, transfer the mac + cheese to a baking dish and broil for 2-3 minutes. Makes about 4-5 servings.