Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Homemade Mac n Cheese

The other day my friend "Jackie" @ "Syrup and Biscuits", posted on her Facebook page a "Hunt for the Best Mac N Cheese". "She says that she has many recipes for Mac n Cheese but none that are outstanding!" I have to admit, mine is not the "Southern Method" Mac n Cheese. Mine is more a Comfort Food...had it this way for my whole life kinda Mac n Cheese.
The version depends on my delivery method. Do I want it baked and crisp on top or do I want it ooey and gooey?  Do I want it as a side dish or do I want it as a Main Course? I usually opt for the "side dish" version.
My "BF" (hate that term at my age)...but I digress...My BF was a staunch "Kraft" Mac n Cheese guy. He said before he met me, his daughters only knew Boxed Mac n Cheese. (I shutter to think). Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a Mac n Cheese snob...but I don't for the life of me understand why you would make boxed mac n cheese when the real deal is so easy to make and not expensive. The only expense really is the cheese...and even if you use store brand "sliced" processed cheese. (yes darlings...I have it in my fridge too) it's still better than that boxed orange who knows what powder.
Essentially Homemade Mac n Cheese is Butter, Flour, Milk and Cheese. If you'd like to add nutmeg, good for you. Salt and pepper (know your cheese first). Maybe you think it should be baked, then you would need a topping choice. But as a simple comparison of apples to apples, Mac n cheese for mac n cheese...the side dish version is what we're comparing.
My Mac n Cheese is Awesome. My family loves it. It is simple...straightforward and very easy to make. But the comfort food factor is top of the chart!
Homemade Mac n Cheese

1 lb Pasta (preferably one with a cavity to hold cheese; ie: shells, elbows, penne)
1 stick butter
3 tbsp Flour
2 cups Milk (or half n half)
2 cups shredded or cubed Sharp Cheddar Cheese
May sub Gruyere(yum) or whatever cheese you know melts and you like the flavor of.
Pepper Jack would be awesome too!
1 tsp Nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 cup crushed Ritz Crackers or Seasoned Bread Crumbs
3 tblsp. melted Butter or Olive Oil

If baking,  Preheat oven to 400°

In Large Pasta Pot bring 3 quarts salted water to boil, add pasta,  cook 8 minutes after water comes back to boil, or until "Al Dente". Drain and replace in warm pot.

In Medium Sauce Pan:  Melt butter.
Add flour to melting butter and combine until thickened. (making a roux)
Add Milk, bring to a boil.
Stir consistently until mixture has thickened.
Once Mixture is thickened add cheese and remove from heat. Continue to stir until cheese is fully melted and thoroughly combined. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

If serving as side dish: Pour over "drained" pasta and serve.
If baking : In mixing bowl combine melted butter and Cracker crumbs.
Pour pasta into buttered baking dish. Pour sauce over Pasta. Cover Pasta and sauce with buttered cracker crumbs and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling.