Everyone has their favorite version of macaroni and cheese.
This is mine.
It's a take on the version my mother used to make. Even though the recipe is slightly tweaked, it's the closest I've come to recreating it, and it brings back wonderfully rich memories of weeknight dinners at home. When my mother died, I missed not just her, but the food she filled our household with.
Macaroni and cheese was the first dish I attempted to cook in her absence. I failed many times over, never getting the consistency or the flavor quite right. But after much trial and error, I finally perfected a version that has become my ultimate comfort food. It's a little spicy, a little tangy and a lot cheesy. I make it for random weeknight dinners, and for out-of-town dinner guests alike. It never fails to please.
And always, always, I serve it with a fresh cucumber tomato salad.
My Mother's Macaroni & Cheese
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Dash black pepper
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 8 oz sharp cheddar, cubed
- 8 oz mild cheddar, cubed
- 8 oz pepper jack, cubed
- 1 pound elbow macaroni
Begin by greasing a 2 quart casserole dish and preheating the oven to 350 degrees.
Boil the macaroni in a large pot of water, drain and set aside inside the greased casserole dish.
Now you're going to make a roux. When I was a novice cook this was always the trickiest part of the recipe for me, but it really is quite simple. Begin by combining the butter, corn starch, salt and pepper in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk vigorously until the mixture begins to bubble and all the butter is melted.
Slowly pour in the milk and continue to whisk over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens slightly.
Then remove from heat and stir in the cubed cheese. Continue to stir the cheese slowly until it is completely melted. You may have to turn the burner to low again to make this happen, but make sure to continue stirring so that the bottom doesn't burn.
The sauce should be incredibly thick and creamy. In fact you should have a
hard time not eating it all before you even bake it.
Once the sauce is finished, pour it over the macaroni and stir until all
the pasta is evenly combined.
Give the top a light sprinkle of salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes, or until browned and bubbly on top.