Regardless of how old my kids get, mac & cheese is still one of the first things they want me to make when they are hungry. And to tell the truth, I kind of like it too.
For most, mac & cheese is a “made from a box” kind of dish. While those pre-packaged, ready-made, full of salt and additives and powdered cheese dishes are “ok,” I promise you they the stuff made from scratch is so awesomely delicious AND simple you’ll never buy the boxed version again.
So how do you cook the perfect pasta to accompany the perfect cheese sauce? First, boil 5-6 quarts of water per 1 pound of uncooked pasta. (You can cut this in half if you’re making a smaller amount). Add the pasta, mix to allow the water to swirl the pasta and then let the water boil. Stir about once every two minutes while it’s boiling.
The cooking time will vary depending on the kind of pasta you’re using so check the box. The best advice I can give you about cooking pasta is that if you’re making a dish that is going to require extra cook time, slightly undercook the pasta by about a third of the time suggested on the box. You need to taste the pasta to see if it’s the consistency you want. Pasta that is cooked should be “al dente,” firm to the bite, not hard, not mushy but cooked through with a bit of resistance. Drain your pasta immediately, do not let it sit in the water, it will continue to cook even if it’s removed from the heat. Some recipes call for you to rinse the pasta, others not, it just depends on what you’re planning to do with and add to the pasta or what you’re adding the pasta to.
My rule is that you don’t rinse drained pasta unless planning on making a cold pasta dish. Starch from the cooked pasta clings to un-rinsed hot pasta and it helps the hot sauce coat the pasta. In fact I always save a little of the cooking water from the pasta when I drain it I need to thin whatever sauce I’m making.
- 8 oz. uncooked small to medium pasta shapes = 4 cups cooked
- 8 oz. uncooked long pasta = 4 cups cooked
- 8 oz. uncooked egg noodles = 2½ cups cooked
Classic Mac & Cheese (dairy)
- 4 cups whole milk or a combination of milk and half & half
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- ½ cup flour
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- 3 cups s1hredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup grated parmesan
- Kosher salt
- 1 lb. elbow macaroni
- 2/3 cup panko (optional)
- In a saucepan heat the milk to a simmer then set it aside. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown in color, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- While whisking constantly, slowly add the hot milk to the flour mixture until evenly combined and smooth. (It will get very thick when you first add the milk, then thin out.)
- Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and while whisking constantly, cook until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of the salt, taste, and add the remaining salt as desired. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until it’s almost al dente (just on the edge of being underdone), then drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.
(If you plan to top the mac ‘n’ cheese with panko and bake it, heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.)
- Place the reserved saucepan of béchamel over medium heat and stir in both cheeses just until melted and smooth.
- Add the pasta and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is heated through and steaming, about 2 to 4 minutes.
- Serve immediately or, if baking, transfer to a 5-quart baking dish, sprinkle with the panko, and bake until bubbling and brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes
Modified from a recipe from the Homeroom in Oakland Restaurant, Oakland California.
Mock Crab Macaroni and Cheese (dairy and fish)
- 8 oz. elbow macaroni or small pasta
- 5½ Tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2½ cups milk
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded mild Pepper Jack cheese, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 4 Tablespoons dry white wine
- 8 oz. chopped kosher imitation crab, chopped
- 1½ cups bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish and set it aside
- Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- In a saucepan, melt 3 Tablespoons of butter and add the parsley and green onions. Sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the flour and whisk until the mixture is bubbly. Slowly whisk in the milk and continue whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- The beaten egg should be in a small bowl. Remove ¾ cup of the hot mixture and slowly whisk it into the beaten egg, about 2 Tablespoons at a time. When you’ve finished whisking the hot mixture into the egg mixture slowly whisk it back into the hot mixture.
- Return to the cook top and over a low heat add 1 cup of Cheddar cheese and ½ cup of the Pepper Jack and the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the white wine. Mix to combine.
- Add the cooked macaroni mix to combine then add the imitation crab. Mix to combine.
- Spoon the mixture into the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
- In a microwave bowl melt the 2½ Tablespoons of butter and mix in the bread crumbs. Sprinkle them over the cheese. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. If the top isn’t golden you can remove the dish from the oven, bump up the temperature to a broil and then place the dish under broil for about 1 minute, but watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.
This recipe can be doubled or tripled.
Submitted by Angela Cardosi Evanston IL source unknown, modified
Smoked Whitefish and Butternut Mac & Cheese (dairy and fish)
- 8 oz. smoked white fish, broken into pieces
- 1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
- ½ cup butter, melted
- 2 cups diced butternut squash
- 1 cup sweet onion, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup whipping cream
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups shredded cheddar or pepper jack
- 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
- 1 lb. small pasta (macaroni, penne, bowtie) cooked according to the instructions
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set it aside.
- Place the breadcrumbs and cooked smoked white fish in a food processor and process until you have small pieces. With the motor running slowly add only ¼ cup of the melted butter to the bread crumb mixture and process for 10 to 15 seconds. Set aside.
- Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in skillet and add the onions and butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper.
- Sauté the onions and squash for 5 to 7 minutes until they are tender and slightly golden. Remove the mixture to a bowl and mash the vegetables, set the mixture aside.
- Melt the remaining butter in saucepan, whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, whisking constantly. At this point, whisk in the milk and cream. Bring to a simmer then add the cheese stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the cooked pasta and squash mixture to the cheese mixture. Mix to combine.
- Spoon the mixture into the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the smoked white fish/bread mixture over the top.
- Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden on top.
Modified from the wickednoodle.com
Caprese Mac & Cheese (dairy)
- 8 oz. macaroni, cooked according to the package instructions, drained, rinsed
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 1¼ cups milk
- ½ cup cream
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- In a saucepan melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cream.
- Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. As soon as the mixture reaches a boil reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Stir in the mozzarella, stirring constantly until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the drained pasta, mix to combine and heat at a simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
- To serve, spoon onto 4 plates and top with diced tomatoes and fresh basil.
Modified from Cookingclassy.com
© Eileen Goltz mac 14a
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.