Homemade Mac & Cheese

I grew up eating boxed macaroni and cheese — it’s easy and quick to make. On Tuesday, I shared how I started cooking at a young age. I started experimenting with the boxed mac and cheese to make it better. I would add whatever cheeses we had on-hand and stir them in with the powder, milk, and cheese. The result was usually tastier than what came straight out of the box.

As I got older, I learned about roux and the power of homemade sauces. I have always loved mac and cheese, but this opened a whole new world of possibilities. I could control the types and amounts of cheeses in order to control the texture and flavor profiles.

In grad school, I started making this dish any time I needed to feed a group or was just in the mood for an easy dinner. It becomes a main course by tossing in some crumbled sausage, hamburger meat, or pieces of chicken or shrimp. You can also add canned tomatoes with chiles for a splash of color and a zip of spiciness.

Now, there is some debate about whether you should bake a mac and cheese. I prefer to leave it unbaked, since it stays gooey. This recipe calls for a quick blast under the broiler to brown the bread crumbs. You could substitute the bread crumbs for a layer of cheese for a different texture all together.

If you prefer the firmer texture of the baked mac and cheese, simply bake in a moderate oven (about 350° F) until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbling around the sides, about 20 minutes.

Equipment

  • Large skillet
  • Whisk
  • Large pot

IngredientsMac&Cheese Ingredients

  • 1 lb. dried macaroni
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 lb. smoked guoda cheese, grated
  • 1/4 lb. colby jack cheese, grated
  • Seasoned bread crumbs, optional

Steps

  1. Boil elbow macaroni in large pot of salty water until al dente.
  2. Melt butter over medium heat in large skillet, adding onions and garlic.Onions and Garlic
  3. Saute until onions start to brown. Lower heat and sprinkle with flour to create a roux.Mac and Cheese Roux
  4. Once the roux darkens to a light golden brown, add milk and prepared horseradish, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Cheese in Roux
  5. Once roux and milk have combined, add cheeses, stirring until completely incorporated. If it turns out too thick, add a little more milk.
  6. Add al dente pasta to sauce and sprinkle with seasoned bread crumbs.Mac&Cheese with Bread Crumbs
  7. Broil until sauce is bubbly and bread crumbs are toasted.Mac&Cheese

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