Your six ingredients are:
Macaroni | Butter | Milk | Flour | Cheese | Breadcrumbs
To me, the Classic American Mac ‘n’ Cheese is the ultimate comfort food and, I’m pleased to announce, it’s a dish that most children will eat with enthusiasm! Also, once cooked, it’ll keep nicely in the fridge for a few days or the freezer for a few months, so you’ve always got a moreish meal to pull from your hat when time is tight.
I’ve suggested that you might like to add some nutmeg here too, but, while traditional, that’s really a matter of personal taste. If you’re using salty cheese you should leave out extra salt, like I have done here, and think carefully about which cheeses you use – you want something that melts and goes stringy like mozzarella, gruyere or, my personal favourite, Monterey Jack, combined with something a bit tangy, like a good cheddar.
While this recipe is definitely an American classic, it seems that most British chefs generally agree on the same method of cooking. I’ve tried to make it as simple as possible, but if you’re put off by making a roux (see Step 2) then you can simply reserve a little of the pasta water to stir in and substitute the roux sauce (butter, flour, milk) for 100g mascarpone instead.
Photographs by Rustic Foodie Girl Rachel.
Classic American Mac 'n' Cheese
- July 2, 2018
- 6-8 people Servings
- 45 min
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- 600g dried or fresh macaroni - I also like conchiglie, spirali and fusilli for this dish
- 100g plus a knob of unsalted butter
- 1 litre semi-skimmed milk
- 3 heaped tbsp. plain flour
- 250g grated, mixed cheese - I used Monterey Jack for meltiness and Cheddar for tanginess
- 3 handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs - just make your own in the food processor
- Step 1
- Cook the Pasta Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the macaroni as per packet instructions, minus 1 minute (you want it al dente). Then drain, toss with a knob of butter – or olive oil if you have it – to keep from sticking together, and put in a bowl to one side.
- Step 2
- Make the sauce Wipe out the saucepan with some kitchen roll then, in the same large saucepan, heat the milk gently but don’t let it come to the boil. Meanwhile, melt about 3/4 of the butter in a second, smaller pan, add in the flour and whisk continually until a rough, thick paste forms. This is called a roux and is the thickener base of the creamy Mac ‘n’ Cheese sauce. Next, keep whisking gently while you pour in the hot milk, this should bring it all together as a smooth sauce.
- Step 3
- Remove the sauce from the heat and add in the cheese and a little fresh ground black pepper (many people add 1/2 tsp. nutmeg here too, some even add quartered cherry tomatoes).
- Step 4
- Add the cooked macaroni to the sauce and stir to ensure it is well coated. Then, transfer the mixture to your casserole dish, loaf tin or baking dish. It will be slightly too runny but that’s good, because it will thicken further in the oven.
- Step 5
- Before placing the dish in the oven, melt the final 1/4 of the butter in a small frying pan and add in the breadcrumbs. Fry them gently for a minute or two until they are starting to brown and crisp and then scatter them all over the top of the macaroni. Bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and oozing.
- Step 6
- Mac ‘n’ Cheese is delicious served with a side salad, on the side of some ham or gammon, or straight from the casserole dish with a fork and no sharing!