Macaroni cheese is one of my all-time favourites – serious comfort food. We have it pretty much on a weekly basis, and I’ve spent a good many years perfecting it. I used to find sauce would soak into the macaroni, meaning it was too dry and the macaroni was overcooked. But after the best part of twenty years fiddling with it I think I finally have it nailed.
The key is getting the cheese sauce just right, under cooking the macaroni and putting it all in a hot oven for a short time to crisp up the top without overcooking the macaroni or the sauce.
I like to serve this with a simple side salad. My kids like to eat this with baked beans!
- 150g macaroni (not the quick cook stuff, which really doesn’t work in this recipe)
- 30g butter
- 25g flour
- 250ml milk
- 1 tsp mustard (or to taste)
- 200g mature cheddar (or to taste), grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 220C
- Cook the macaroni until it’s a bit less done than normal – a couple of minutes less than you would usually do. The brand I use takes 10 minutes normally, so I give it 8 minutes for macaroni cheese.
- While the macaroni is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a medium sized pan on a low heat. When the butter is foaming, add the flour and stir until it’s mixed in. Then keep cooking for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. It takes guts to do this. It looks like something is going to go wrong but it doesn’t!
- Very gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Make sure each bit of milk is incorporated before adding the next bit. If you do this slowly on a very low heat, you should end up with a perfectly smooth cheese sauce with no lumps and no need to whisk. However, if it does go wrong for some reason, you can always use a whisk to beat out the lumps.
- When all the milk is incorporated, add the mustard, salt and pepper. (N.B. I use slightly salted butter, so I don’t add any extra salt here.) Then add half the cheese, stir to combine and turn off.
- When the pasta is done, drain it, retaining a little bit of the cooking water.
- Tip the pasta and a couple of tablespoonfuls of the cooking water into the cheese sauce and stir.
- Pour the macaroni cheese into a shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. The top should be brown but the bottom should still be saucy and the macaroni should be perfectly cooked.
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