Influenza – Mac’n’Cheese

I’ve been knocked flat by the flu for the last few days, so my cooking has been extremely sparse – and my writing skills equally lacking. Instead of a short story, then, we’re digging into the notebooks to pull out some old favorites. I’ve kept a pen-and-paper cooking journal sporadically over the last couple of years, with highlights and comments about the success – or lack thereof, always important to learn from mistakes – of my cooking. It’s also an interesting tale of when the year got to be hectic to the point that I stopped cooking things that pushed my limits.

We’re big fans of macaroni and cheese around here. There’s something comforting about oozy, melted cheese, even if it did start life as an unidentifiably orange powder in a box. I’ve played with this recipe over time, and there’s no end to the creative touches that can be applied.

And yes, I call for Velveeta in this recipe. It’s what I had handy. Any creamy, easy-melting cheese (such as Fontina or even Swiss) would go well here. Don’t use cheddar alone, as the taste may be too sharp and the cheddar will tend to break/curdle in the sauce.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese (serves 4+)

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 2 C milk (or equal parts milk and half-and-half, if you’re up for it)
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz. Velveeta, cubed
  • salt, pepper
  • quatre épices (if you’re without, use nutmeg instead)

Cook the pasta until al dente, per maker’s instructions. Meanwhile, warm milk until scalding (hot but not boiling).

Melt the butter until foaming subsides. Add flour and whisk to combine. Add hot milk and keep whisking. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 1-2 minutes.

Add the grated cheeses to the cream sauce slowly, a small handful at a time, whisking in each addition until completely melted. Alternate between the cheeses. You may not use all the cheese – the goal is to get a melted sauce without the cheese breaking/curdling. Season to taste.

Combine sauce with pasta, and either serve as-is or transfer to a buttered baking dish and bake at 325 degrees F for about 20 minutes.