No one likes to be wrong. Or called a liar. But I stand here before you today – well I am sitting and typing – admitting that I was incorrect. Wrong. I screwed up.
Years ago, I posted a homemade mac and cheese recipe. And it was fine. Don’t get me wrong – it is pretty tasty – but titling it “The Creamiest, Yummiest Mac and Cheese” was a falsehood that I have been forced to acknowledge over the last six months. This realization came to me when I accidentally made an even better version of my own mac and cheese (a bit of self back patting perhaps?). And I have a fussy baby to thank for it. My previous recipe had all the basics, but it was missing a few steps that I only learned made a delicious difference because Bennett was pitching a fit one night when I was making dinner and Troy was at work. I ended up not being able to rush part of the cooking process, and it has made a world of difference.
So what was I doing “wrong” before? I wasn’t allowing the roux to cook long enough, I was using cubed cheese (and some of the wrong kinds), and I was adding cold milk to the roux. All rookie mistakes that led to a tasty meal, but something was just a bit off about the whole thing. I would notice that the next day there would be melted/congealed butter in the container holding the leftovers. It was fine when heated, but a bit of a visual turn off.
If you have your own favorite homemade mac and cheese recipe, by all means keep it. But try to incorporate my steps in making this dish and see if it takes your mac and cheese to the next level.
The Actual Creamiest, Dreamiest Mac and Cheese
An updated version of an old favorite. Nothing screams comfort food, like a bowl full of mac and cheese.
- 4 tbsp butter (salted or unsalted is fine)
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 6 cups shredded cheese (I like 1 cup mozzarella, 2 cups medium cheddar, and 3 cups extra sharp cheddar)
- 3 cups milk, warmed
- 1 lb pasta (we prefer whole wheat rotini)
- olive oil
- kosher salt
In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, bring salted water with a drizzle of olive oil to a boil. Cook the pasta, stirring often until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In the same pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, 1 tbsp at a time, whisking after each addition. This is called a roux. Cook it down for four minutes, until the roux is a light caramel color.
Slowly (SLOWLY) drizzle in the warmed milk, whisking vigorously the whole time. I like to start with about 1/3 cup of milk, stir, 1/2 cup of milk, stir, and then very slowly add the rest. Cook for 10 minutes, whisking often.
Reduce the stove temperature to low, and add the shredded one handful at a time. Whisk to fully incorporate the cheese before adding any more. As soon as all the cheese is fully melted, immediately remove the pan from heat and add the pasta. Stir to combine.
You can totally use lower fat cheese or milk for this recipe. But don’t. I am a big believer on eating things in their purest, least-adapted form. If you are worried about calories, pair this with a huge side salad, and then take a walk with your family after dinner. Or a “roll” if you’re part of mine. 🙂 Walk your neighborhood, talk to strangers, and scope out fruit trees and vines that are on public land and thus allllllll yours come summer.