When I was little, my mother used to make homemade baked mac and cheese, and to her utter disappointment, I hated it. I loved the Kraft stuff (with the powder, not the cheese sauce, ew…and don’t get me started on the Velveeta shells and cheese, which is just truly one of the most disgusting things I’ve eaten in my life), but she just couldn’t get me to eat the homemade stuff. There were a lot of things when I was little that I didn’t like the homemade versions near as much as the box or fast food versions. Which of us did?
Of course, as I got older, my tastebuds changed. My ex made mac and cheese from scratch and I actually started to love it way more than the box stuff. Last year, for the first time, I made it myself, and it was so easy and came out so good that I honestly hesitate to eat even the Kraft mac and cheese again. The recipe I use is from the 1963 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, though I will admit to adapting it. The original recipe calls for onions and dry mustard and to top it with breadcrumbs before baking it, and when I make it, I leave out the onions and mustard and top it with grated cheese instead. And I use a lot more ground black pepper than what it calls for, but I love the stuff, and to date, the roommate does, too.
INGREDIENTS (My adapted)
2-3 cups elbow macaroni
2-3 tbsp butter
2-3 tbps flour
2-3 cups milk
1/2 lb mild cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the macaroni until the noodles are Al dente. You want to do this because once the macaroni goes into the oven in the sauce, it will continue to cook, and if it over cooks, all you have is squishy pasta (and there’s nothing more horrifying in this world than squishy pasta).
While the pasta is still boiling, begin the cheese sauce. In a sauce pan, put the butter (you can use margarine, but I prefer real butter these days since there’s very little oil and no water to it) in and let it melt. Add in the flour and whisk it around until you form a light nutty brown roux. You don’t want to overcook it or burn it.
Add in the pepper and salt. The original recipe calls for 3/4 teaspoon of salt, but again, it’s up to each person as to how much or little they want to use. It calls for a “speck” of pepper, and with me, that just won’t do. I use a lot. After you mix the salt and pepper in, add in the milk and stir in until there are no lumps and it starts to thicken a little. It will resemble (and essentially is) cream gravy. Once this is stirred enough, add in a handful or two of the grated cheese and stir in until it’s melted. Really, you can add as much cheese as you want, but you want to make sure that you save enough cheese to top it.
After you’ve strained the pasta, put it back into the larger pot you boiled it in then pour the cheese sauce over it and mix it thoroughly until every piece of macaroni is coated. Make sure that your casserole dish is lightly oiled (I used the store brand Pam to spray it) then pour in your pasta and cheese sauce and spread it evenly in the dish.
Next add the rest of the grated cheese and spread evenly across the pasta. I try to coat it from edge to edge of the dish.
Finally, put it in the oven on 400° for 20 minutes or until the cheese starts to crisp a little.
When it’s done, pull the mac and cheese out and let it sit for about five minutes so that you don’t burn your tongue.
Finally, serve and eat. It makes great leftovers!