Macaroni and Cheese as an adult or even elegant dish? If you picture a blue box, probably not. Let’s talk….
Whether baked or stovetop, nearly everyone I know has had, or made, mac and cheese. Friend Quentin makes it all the time. Jeff P even puts lobster in it. What sets it apart from the kid’s blue box? High quality ingredients and mindful timing.
Ingredients: Use the best quality Parmesan and other cheeses you can find. It absolutely makes a difference in the taste and texture. The same goes for using whole milk, not reduced fat.
This is actually a very easy dish to make… but timing is critical. Mise en place is a must. Because while the pasta is boiling, you must quickly make the béchamel and add the cheese. If you do the prep work, multitasking is simple. If you don’t, you’ll be in a bit of panic. Mac and cheese isn’t worth panicking over. Do the prep and you’ll be fine.
Stovetop vs. baked mac and cheese. It’s your choice. Stovetop is faster and also satisfying. If you want it baked, I suspect you like the cheesy crust on top. Follow my recipe below for the stovetop version, and then transfer the pasta to a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese and fresh bread crumbs and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes at 350F (180C).
Adult Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb (16 oz) dried macaroni
- 2 1/4 cups* whole milk
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups other hard, but meltable, cheese that you prefer (Provolone, Cheddar, Havarti, Swiss, etc.)
- 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt for cheese sauce
- 2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt (not table salt) for the pasta water
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- Heat 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add kosher or sea salt. Stir. Add dried pasta and stir. Boil for two minutes less than the package indicates (probably about 8 – 10 minutes). It should still be al dente. (It will finish cooking in the cheese sauce). How do you know if it’s al dente? Take a piece of pasta out of the boiling water and once cool enough, eat it!
- While the pasta is boiling, in a small sauce pan, heat milk to a simmer (it’s ready when you see bubbles around the edge of pan). Or Microwave, if you prefer, for 3 minutes
- In a separate 4-quart sauce pan, over medium heat, melt butter with salt, black pepper and ground nutmeg. Once the butter is fully melted, add the flour and stir or whisk vigorously until the flour is fully incorporated into the butter. Cook for approximately 1 minute
- Add the heated milk to the sauce pan with the butter and flour. Stir constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Once it comes to a soft boil, boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the grated cheeses
- Drain the pasta well (do NOT rinse it). Place the pasta back in the large stock pot and add the cheese sauce. Gently stir until well combined
- Do you want to add cooked chicken? Ok. How about ham or pancetta? Great. Lobster? Be my guest!
*NOTE: I like my mac and cheese really thick. If you prefer yours creamier and saucier, heat extra milk and at the last step, slowly add it in while stirring until you reach your desired consistency.