By Chef Mario
This is a classic recipe that uses a bechamel based cheese sauce. One thing to consider when making baked mac ‘n cheese is that your pasta cooks twice, once in the water, once in the pan. If you like your pasta al dente, then cook it very al dente, as it will soften some. I don’t worry too much about it and just cook my pasta as I would normally, as most Americans (including myself) grew up with overcooked noodles in their mac, and soft pasta is therefore a stylistic element and not a goof up. My opinion.
-1 pound of your favorite shaped pasta (elbows?)
-1 pound cheddar
-1 pint milk
-2 T butter
-2 T AP flour
-seasoned bread crumbs (a whole other recipe), or Kikkoman panko
-chipotle or other chile pepper, rehydrated and finely chopped
-a dash or 2 of nutmeg (optional but awesome)
-Put on a pot of boiling salted water for your pasta. Bring to a boil and add pasta. Cook to desire doneness, drain and set aside.
-In a heavy bottom pot, 3 qt or larger, make a roux by melting your butter, then whisking in the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon on medium high heat for about two minutes, careful not to get color on your mixture.
-Slowly whisk in your milk, keeping heat fairly high, and stirring very quickly, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot. Once incorporated decently, use a whisk and stir rapidly to get out any chunks.
-Reduce heat to low/medium, stir thoroughly and constantly until mixture thickens, maybe 3 or 4 minutes. Lower heat all the way, and cook for 1 more minute.
-Once smooth and thick, add your grated cheese and stir until smooth. Taste for flavor and salt . Whisk in nutmeg, chipotle, any other seasoning, and salt if necessary.
-Now for the fun part: mix your pasta and cheese sauce together in the pasta cooking pot. If you time this just right, your pasta will still be hot and slightly damp. So will the pot. If the pasta has cooled down too much, just put the whole thing on the stove and heat it up a little, using a rubber spatula to coat the pasta evenly.
-Place your mac and cheese in a heavy baking dish, cover with bread crumbs, and bake in a preheated super-hot oven to get a nice toast on those bread crumbs. Broiling may be necessary. If using store-bought bread crumbs, top mac, then generously drizzle with olive oil. Maybe a little salt and pepper on top, then bake.
-Remove from the oven, and eat. But don’t burn yourself. Peace.
-Leave your mac in that super hot oven for about twenty minute, or until the sides just start to bubble and the top gets some serious color. As I said earlier you maybe need to switch on the broiler if the sides get ahead of the crumbs.
-Pyrex works best to get this crispy on the bottom. Rub the bottom and sides with cold butter before adding the mac for best results.
-Oh, and for a bit of nostalgia, don’t forget to add the frozen peas. Delish.