My mother has said to me that she could never get her homemade macaroni & cheese recipe just right. Even though it was her father’s recipe and she had seen him make this a hundred times, she said she could not get the cheese right. The recipe originally called for handfuls of cheese, and when I remember my grandfather, he worked as a Boston police officer after World War II, I always imagined the large hands of a Boston police officer and started with huge handfuls of cheese. This led to the creation of a cheesy, gooey, macaroni and cheese.
Deciding what type of cheese to add is still something I still experiment with. The basic homemade macaroni and cheese recipes use cheddar and then there is the familiar yellow cheese products from Velveeta or Kraft. For my Homemade Mac & Cheese, I have two rules: 1) No low fat cheeses and 2) Always use Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese as a kind of base. The lower fat cheese bars are waxy and will not melt well enough. As for the Cabot Seriously Sharp, I like the nuttiness and great melting point but any good melting cheese will work. But always try to mix in a variety of complementing cheeses and have used gruyere, fontina, and different types of cheddar. Have fun and experiment.
Most recipes start with a roux. Begin by melting the cubed butter in a large stock pot over medium high heat, slowly sifting in the flour letting the butter and flour mixture brown slightly. You will notice a slight nutty smell that compliments the cheese. Pour the milk slowly. one cup at a time, into the mixture now turned down to medium low heat. Stir with a whisk trying to break up any clumps of flour. Continue to add the milk, stirring occasionally.
Once the flour is dissolved, slowly add the handfuls of cheese. Stir until the first handful of cheese has completely melted then add another handful. Once all the cheese has melted, slowly pour the cheese mixture into a casserole dish that already contains the dry casserole elbows. Cover the dish and place it into a preheated 350° oven for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese on the sides really starts to bubble.
The topping needs to be crunchy to balance the smooth and creamy cheese and pasta. Many homemade mac and cheese recipes use crumbled Ritz crackers or bread crumbs. My mother would crush croutons and place them on top of the macaroni and cheese. The croutons are heartier and do not get super soft or mushy and retain some of their crunch. Place the casserole dish uncovered back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Afterwards, cool the dish for about 7 minutes and serve.
- 3 cups elbow macaroni
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups milk, adding whole milk makes it more rich, but has been made with fat free milk
- 3 8 oz sticks of cheese, one preferably Cabot Seriously Sharp, but mix them up
- 2 cups croutons
- Cut cheese into 1" cubes.
- Melt butter over medium high heat. Slowly whisk flour, one tablespoon at a time until the flour darkens into a light brown color.
- Turn heat down to medium low. Slowly add milk, one cup at a time, whisking out lumps.
- Add cheese one handful at a time until melted completely.
- Add dry pasta to casserole dish. Pour cheese mixture over and mix with spoon.
- Cover and place dish in preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or cheese bubbles along edges of dish.
- Top with crushed croutons and return to oven for about 10 minutes. Remove and let dish cool, about 10 minutes.