Classic Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe for Macaroni and Cheese is one I have made for years. Admittedly, I always made it “by eye”….. you know the type of cooking I mean…. annoying cooks that don’t measure exactly and just go on their merry way…. making foods that turn out great every time and the same every time …. getting a recipe out of them is like pulling teeth…. well…. my Macaroni and Cheese recipe is a little like that.

One of the secrets to cooking “by eye” is that I use the same pot every time… I know how much should be in there…. and I just do it….. have no fear though…. I measured exactly so I could write the recipe for you. It actually was hard to do…. I’m so used to grabbing the milk container and pouring it right into the pot…. but measure I did.

Now doesn't that look yummy??

I wrote my recipe and then surfed the net to compare my recipe with other ones out there…. I was surprised to find very few that used the traditional roux (flour and butter or margarine) and milk to make the starter white sauce…. and the ones that did… didn’t use nearly as much cheese as I do….

Back in junior high, we had to take home ec (economics) where one semester was cooking and the other was sewing…. (I’m probably dating myself)…. I guess the school district felt obligated to make us into good little homemakers…. well… macaroni and cheese was one of the dishes we had to learn to make…. no shortcuts… we had to grate our cheese… and make our white sauce base and then make the cheese sauce…. etc…. so maybe my recipe has roots going back to junior high…. but in any case… my son had it often while growing up and always loved it…

Just look at that ooey gooey cheese...mmmm

I love cheese… and my macaroni and cheese has a smooth cheese sauce… and the sauce is very cheesy… I used mostly sharp cheddar with some mild cheddar…  you can use only mild or a combination including Monterey jack cheese….

You can use different types of pasta…. elbows, bow ties, rotini, shells…. your choice…

Sprinkle some extra shredded cheddar on top for the last 10 minutes of baking and you will get a slightly crisp golden color... yummy too!

Recipe:  Classic Macaroni and Cheese

All you need:

1 pound macaroni, cooked according to package directions
4 cups skim milk (you can use 1%, 2% or whole also)
3-4 tablespoons margarine
¼ cup flour
4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups mild cheddar cheese
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

All you need to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook macaroni to al dente (cooked but chewy) according to package directions. Drain.

Using the same pot, melt the margarine over medium heat.

Add the flour and mix… to make the will be very pastey….

Add about a cup of milk and whisk vigorously until lumps disappear… you may add a little more milk if the roux is too dry.

Slowly add about 2 cups of the milk…. whisking constantly and vigorously.

When mixture begins to thicken… slowly add remaining milk… the consistency will be a little runnier than cream…

Continue to whisk over heat until sauce thickens some more.

Gradually add handfuls of the cheese into the sauce… stirring constantly with a cooking spoon.. until all the cheese has been incorporated….

The sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream…. If yours is still too runny … (it shouldn’t be but if it is…) you can add more cheese or in a measuring cup mix 1 tablespoon flour with about ¼ cup of milk … whisk with a small for until smooth… add some of the sauce into the measuring cup and whisk… then add the mixture into the pot and whisk. Give it a few minutes and it should thicken the sauce a bit more... make sure you whisk constantly.

Add the macaroni to the pot and mix thoroughly.

Add the ham, if using, mix thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into a baking dish (13x9) or two smaller dishes.

Bake for 25 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and top is golden.

Now watch it disappear!

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