Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food that lends itself to many exotic, delightful variations. To me, the fundamental childhood version is best. This suits the mood for all ages at any family gathering, its simplicity never disappoints. Especially in this case, when it’s upgraded from antiquity to include the very best essential ingredients (organic cheese, butter and milk) for the bechamel and an effective stove top technique.
Make this recipe in one broiler safe 9X13 casserole dish, or break into 2 8X8 squares. You can also use individual ramekins.
Cook 1 LB of elbow macaroni in about 4 qts of boiling water and some salt. Under cook the pasta to just el dente.
Shred 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese and 8 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese and set aside with a tsp of salt. In heavy Dutch oven, heat 5T butter over medium heat until foaming, whisking. Whisk in 6T flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, combining. Continue whisking until fragrant and deep in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in 5 cups of milk, whisking constantly until it boils. Mixture must attain full boil in order to fully thicken. Reduce heat to simmer, whisking occasionally, until consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Add shredded cheeses and salt. Stir to combine until creamy. Add pasta. Cook over low medium heat, stirring, until hot and steamy.
Transfer mixture to casserole dish(es). Top with bread crumbs, panko, shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese, smashed potato chips, crushed red or black pepper, your choice. Place under broiler, watching closely, until top is browned. Cool about 5 minutes and serve. Tabasco sauce and celery salt are nice condiments at the table.
Mac and Cheese microwaves nicely for a follow-up meal, but be sure to use the DEFROST cycle on your microwave. This keeps the cheeses from being ruined, seizing up, separating, and ruining the dish. Now you know.
Can you add diced ham and peas? Of course you can!!! Can you add kielbasa? Of course you can! (I’m a vegetarian though…)