My hubby believes that the ultimate comfort food is macaroni and cheese. I find this amusing, because he has gourmet tastes and is a pretty amazing cook. He can wander into a kitchen where I see nothing resembling the ingredients of a meal and he can whip up something fabulous. And yet, his favorite thing to eat when he doesn’t feel well, or is stressed, is mac and cheese. For years, I just bought him the boxed kind with powdered “cheese”. Gag! When we switched over from eating highly processed foods to “real” food in January of last year, I knew that I would have to learn to make mac and cheese from scratch. After following a few recipes that just didn’t pass muster, I decided to make my own recipe. He loved it- win!
Although this may look a bit complicated if you’re new to cooking, don’t be intimidated. I’ll take you through step-by-step with pictures to make it easy.
We start by making a “roux”, which is nothing more than equal parts butter and flour. The butter and flour form a paste, which will thicken your cheese sauce. First, you need to melt the butter and let it heat up until it starts to foam.
Once you’ve got foam, whisk in the flour and bring the mixture to a very low simmer. Whisk often and keep a close eye on it. We’re wanting a golden-brown color, not dark brown.
When you have a thick golden-brown mixture with a “cooked” scent, you’ll need to add some of the cold milk. Just splash in a few ounces and whisk until there are no lumps.
Add a few more ounces and whisk again. At this point, you can pour in the rest of the milk and it should incorporate without any lumps. You can see how thin it is from the way it runs right off the back of the spoon, instead of coating it.
Over medium to medium-low heat, very gently simmer (don’t boil!) the cream sauce, whisking often. In 5 to 10 minutes, the sauce will be thick and creamy. You’ll know it’s done when it thickly coats the back of a spoon. Shut it off and remove the pan from the heat.
Add in the shredded cheese a handful at a time, whisking each addition until it’s completely melted.
When you have added all of the cheese, you’ll have a thick, creamy cheese sauce. Taste it and add any salt, if needed, and whatever herbs and spices you want. Pour it over cooked pasta.
At this point, you can really jazz things up with special additions, such as prosciutto (it tastes a lot like bacon)!
Mac and Cheese From Scratch
- 1 pound freshly cooked pasta (we like to try fun shapes!)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups cold milk
- 10 ounces of shredded cheese (we use cheddar)
- herbs and spices (we like a pinch of nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon of mustard powder)
- 6 slices prosciutto (optional)
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter until it starts to foam; then whisk in the flour. Continue whisking until the mixture turns golden-brown and smells “cooked”.
- Whisk in a few ounces of the cold milk, until there are no lumps. Keep adding and whisking until all the milk is added.
- Simmer on medium-low, whisking often, until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 5-10 minutes), then remove from heat.
- Add the cheese by handfuls and whisk until each addition is melted. Taste, and add any salt, pepper or seasonings.
- Stir the sauce into cooked pasta and add chopped prosciutto, or any other additions.
And there you have it – homemade mac and cheese!