Cook macaroni. Add cheese. Eat.
Ok, it is a little more complicated than that, but not by much. Though straight cheese on noodles does sound delicious. (mental note for future recipe ideas…)
But this recipe starts off with a roux, then becomes a béchamel to which we add shredded cheese in order to make the velvety sauce. Look at my other post on how to make a roux for more in-depth steps on this portion of the recipe if you’d like. Don’t worry if that all sounds too fancy and complicated – it isn’t.
It is comfort food mac and cheese, after all, so we’re just looking for the basic and straightforward method. Besides just grabbing the boxed version, because that is probably the most basic.
Lots of Mac and Cheese
Growing up I loved the comforting wave of processed cheese that came from the iconic Kraft blue box. Ah, delicious perfection as a child. Even better if it was one of the special shapes ones – like Ninja Turtles.
As an adult, I’ve seen a ton of variety in mac and cheese. Topped with toasted breadcrumbs and baked, tossed with some bacon, mixed with green chiles, battered and fried. You can even get it as fast food to go from Chick-fil-A now? Mac and cheese really gets around lately.
Even with all those variations out there, it’s sometimes better to go back to basics. Homemade comfort food mac and cheese on the stovetop, with just some noodles and a fairly simple cheese sauce. There is beauty in simplicity. And that is what this recipe is all about.
Options for the Dish
You do have a few options for this recipe, though. It all comes down to what kind of cheese you want to include. For mine, I went with a mix of sharp cheddar and gruyere. You can also mix up the noodle type to whatever you fancy (or whatever is on hand in the pantry).
However, make sure that you are not using pre-packaged shredded cheese. Those tend to include anti-caking agents and other things that cause issues and grittiness in your homemade macaroni and cheese. If you aren’t looking forward to shredding all that cheese yourself, use a food processor with the grating attachment to speed up the process.
If you are making this dish, you also have the option to have it as the main course or as a side. It is robust enough to stand alone as an entrée. But it also pairs well with so many things when used as a side dish. While living in Texas, this was apparent at every single barbecue joint. Mac and cheese is always a side option to go with your plate of ribs and brisket.
So, ditch the box of macaroni and try your hand at homemade mac and cheese.
Comfort Food Mac and CheeseCourse: Side DishDifficulty: Easy
Velvety, cheesy, noodley. Choose your cheeses and whip up your own comfort food mac and cheese.
16 ounce package dry elbow macaroni
16 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese (or substitute any mix of cheeses equal to the same weight) – this is about 4 cups of shredded cheese
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Cook the pasta according to package directions
- While the pasta is cooking, shred all of the cheese and set it aside for later
- Start the roux by melting the butter in a 3 quart sauce pan on medium heat
- Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour until fully incorporated
- Continue to stir while cooking it for 3 to 5 minutes, until it is all simmering and gives off a lightly toasted smell
- Turn heat to low and slowly whisk the milk into the roux mixture from the previous step
- Remove from heat and mix in the cheese, continually stirring until it is all melted into the sauce. If it is refusing to melt, add it back to low heat while continuing to stir until just melted
- Combine noodles and cheese sauce
- You can let the melted butter simmer for a bit before tossing in the flour to let it brown and give a deep, nutty kind of flavor to everything
- Use a little half and half or heavy cream in place of some of the milk for a more decadent dish