Macaroni and Cheese


picture of a casserole dish full of macaroni and cheese

Everyone has strong opinions on what constitutes a good macaroni and cheese: the ratios of cheese to milk, the types of cheese, the accent pieces, the topping, etc., etc. At the end of the day it doesn’t really seem to matter, macaroni and cheese will always be ruled by a solid common denominator of being comforting and safe baked pasta. When the outside world seems to loom and the sky begins to look black as night, there is always food like the above. And what better to comfort with, really? Small pasta shapes soak up the smoothest of cheese sauces, one that is filled with Gruyere, aged cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream cheese, and creme fraiche. The latter ingredients add that necessary tang to the recipe that lifts the whole sauce up, a 1/2 cup of blue cheese could also be used to achieve this effect. I have only recently taken to folding the grated cheese in right at the end. This tip came from someone who spends a good chunk of their time making macaroni and cheese for a living and it’s definitely prudent advice; I’ve had nothing but successful silken cheese sauces since adopting this practice.

macaroni and cheese:

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter

6 Tbsp. all purpose flour

4 cups of milk

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/3 cup of creme fraiche

1/3 cup of cream cheese

1 Tbsp. salt

2 cups of Gruyere, grated

1 cup of aged cheddar, grated

1 cup of Parmesan, grated

A generous pinch of freshly cracked black pepper

3 cups of dried pasta, cooked according to package directions (I like using small shells or other similarly sized shape)

About 1/2-3/4 cup of Panko crumbs (enough to cover the top of the casserole)

1. Begin by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions.

3. Melt the butter over medium heat (reserve 2 Tbsp. for the Panko topping) and whisk in the flour all at one. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to periodically whisk the roux, you want it to smell nutty and toasted and for it to be the colour of caramel.

4. Whisk in the milk, a cup at a time, into the butter and flour paste. Whisking constantly, bring the heat up to medium and cook for approximately 5-8 minutes or until thickened. Add the Dijon mustard, creme fraiche, cream cheese, and salt into the béchamel sauce and stir until completely smooth.

5. Butter the sides of a large casserole or baking dish. Combine the grated cheese  and freshly cracked pepper with the béchamel sauce and pour over the pasta, tossing to coat evenly (the sauce will seem thin at this point but will thicken up as the pasta bakes).

6. Cover the top with Panko crumbs, drizzle over the remaining melted butter and bake for 25 minutes, until the top is bubbling and a deep golden brown. Serve very hot with a lemony salad; I’m partial to slivered sweet peppers, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil.

I love this song and I totally forgot about this video! Ian and I found it one night a few years ago and I’ve been trying to remember which song it went with ever since! This is also a good song to play at an inappropriately loud volume and sing along to while you cook dinner in your housecoat.

The Modern Lovers – She Cracked

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