Unlike most of the comfort food that I post on here, this recipe did not originate from my little Greek mother. That’s because macaroni and cheese is an exceedingly American dish. The Irishman happens to love macaroni and cheese, but only the traditional way. You see, a handful of years ago, I spent 2 hours putting together a gourmet version with 3 different types of milk and 5 different types of cheeses. I carried it over to the table as if it were the Holy Grail. He took one bite and said, “How long did this take you?” I, being the narcissist that I am, thought that he was going to complement my skills and I humbly answered, “A seriously long time.” At which point he said, “Why didn’t you just make the stuff in the box??”
I shot daggers of lightning from my eyes and vowed never to cook for him ever again. I think it lasted 3 days. Regardless, the moral of the story is not to mess with the recipe if you’re billing it as macaroni and cheese. Three years later, I gave it another try with a classic recipe and this time, it was given 2 thumbs up and proclaimed “awesome.”
So, here’s what you need:
1 box elbow macaroni (4 cups)
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups milk (I use 1% organic)
1 lb. cheddar cheese (or whatever you’re partial to)
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons Dry Mustard (you can find this in the spice isle)
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cook your noodles until al dente (or about 5-6 minutes). We’re going to bake the entire dish, so they can be a little undercooked.
Next, melt your butter over medium heat. Once it’s melted, add in your flour and whisk. Keep whisking for 3 minutes or so. The butter and flour (called a roux) will form a paste that will turn golden in color. After about three minutes, whisk in your milk, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk until it’s completely combined (meaning no more clumps of roux) and a thick creamy consistency (about 5 minutes).
With your beaten egg in a bowl, ladle in one spoonful of the milk mixture into the bowl so that your egg warms up a bit. Once you’ve stirred it together for about 30 seconds, pour the contents of the bowl back into the main pot. Stir until it’s combined.
Now it’s time to add the cheese! Add in about a lb. or so of your cheese of choice (making sure to reserve a handful of cheese to sprinkle on top). Turn the heat off of the stove and whisk the cheese in until it’s completely melted. At this point, add your cooked macaroni into the pot and get all of the little guys smothered in the cheesy goodness.
Finally, pour the mac and cheese mixture into a greased baking dish and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes. You want a nice cheesy crust on the top, but make sure that it doesn’t brown or burn. Let it cool for about 5 minutes since it will be like molten lava. Then, serve it to your loved ones and allow their words of praise and adoration to warm your heart while the macaroni and cheese warms your stomach. Regardless, you’ll feel warm.