Macaroni and cheese is certainly not a new dish, however I consider it without doubt to be in the top 10 comfort foods, so continuing with our November theme of comfort foods is good old mac and cheese!
I have tried so many different versions of macaroni and cheese in order to try and find what I think is the best, and of course the one I have come back to is my mum’s recipe. The only thing I have done is add a little extra cheese. With other versions I tried infusing the milk with onion, bay leaves, spices and so on, and while they were good, mum’s version was without a doubt the winner.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can vary the types of cheese you use depending on what you have. Cheddar, mozzarella & parmesan taste great, are kid friendly and I generally always have them in my fridge, however experiment and try different varieties. Smoked gouda provides a lovely mild smoky dimension, gruyere adds a delicious nuttiness and blue cheese is perfect for a stronger, slightly more sophisticated taste.
To finish off the macaroni and cheese, I like to simply grill it for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling and just turning golden. If you prefer to bake yours however, place it in a 200C/ 400F/ GM 6 oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.
10oz/ 285g macaroni
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
625ml/ 2 ½ cups milk
2 tsp Dijon or English mustard
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3oz/ 85g strong cheddar cheese, grated
3oz/ 85g hard mozzarella, grated
1oz/ 30g parmesan cheese, finely grated
Salt & pepper
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni until it is al dente. If you want to finish off the macaroni in the oven by baking it, cook it for roughly 2 minutes less than the packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking make the cheese sauce. In a medium sized sauce pan, melt the butter and then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Cook over a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, allowing the roux, (the butter and flour mix) to cook slightly to prevent a raw flour taste later on.
Gently start whisking the milk a little at a time into the roux, stirring constantly to prevent any lumps. Once all the milk has been added gently bring it to a boil then allow to simmer for a couple of minutes so that it thickens. (A milk sauce thickened with flour or cornflour will never thicken fully until it has reached a simmer.) Mix the three cheeses together then add the mustard and two-thirds of the mixed cheese to the sauce, along with the nutmeg and salt and pepper. Remove from the heat while the cheese melts then taste to check the seasoning and stir until all the cheeses are melted.
Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce. Stir well then transfer to an oven-proof serving dish. Top with the remaining cheese then bake in the oven for 20 minutes or put it under a hot grill for roughly 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
*For variation add some chopped cooked bacon to the cheese sauce or for extreme luxury add some chunks of lobster!