It's such a cliché that macaroni cheese is thought of as a go-to kids meal, but there's a reason: it's delicious. What I want you to know is that in the time it takes to make macaroni from a box, you can make home made mac n cheese that tastes...different. I was going to say better, but let's not kid ourselves, sometimes, the box stuff just hits the spot, doesn't it?
Anyway, if you have just a few staples on hand, you can make a delightful macaroni and cheese that the whole family can enjoy.
MACARONI AND CHEESE CITYMAMA-STYLE
- 1 box cavatappi or other short pasta
- 1 clove of garlic, smashed/cracked (leave as whole as possible)
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups of milk (anything but non-fat)
- 3 cups of grated cheese (you can use all cheddar or a blend—I like a blend of medium cheddar, jack, and fontina)
- dash of freshly grated nutmeg
- salt and grated pepper to taste
Cook pasta 1-2 minutes less than the time indicated on the box to ensure that it is perfectly al dente.
While pasta water is coming to a boil and pasta is cooking, begin making a roux. Cook butter and garlic together in a sauce pan over low heat until the butter is completely melted and slightly foamy. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and discard.
Add flour and whisk together with butter. Cook 1-1.5 minutes to get rid of any raw flour taste in your sauce. Slowly whisk in the milk along with salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg. Raise heat slightly so that the mixture simmers, whisking constantly. Adjust heat if you need to to ensure a low simmer.
The roux will thicken after a few minutes. Be sure to continue stirring constantly. When ready for cheese, the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in cheese a handful at a time (reserving some shredded cheese for garnish) until it is completely melted.
Drain pasta and return to pot that it was cooked in. Add cheese sauce and stir to combine. Serve in individual bowls and top with grated cheese if desired.
Note: At this point you can also put the macaroni and cheese into a buttered casserole dish and bake it topped with fresh buttered breadcrumbs (325º for 30-40 minutes or until top is nicely browned).
[photo credit: Stefania Pomponi Butler]