Macaroni and Cheese Recipe


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I originally posted this in a Metafilter thread, but I figured it probably belonged here as well.

I've been on a macaroni and cheese kick for the past few months, and I've tried out a variety of recipes in my quest for the perfect concoction.

Here's the recipe I use:

1.5 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 lb. macaroni
1 lb. grated cheese (cheddar, colby, jack, etc.)
salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

First, preheat the oven to 450 and lightly butter a 3 quart baking dish. I use an enameled oval cast iron baking dish with a lid, but use whatever you want. I've found that the deeper the dish, the better the mac and cheese.

Cook the pasta for 5 minutes in rapidly boiling water and set it aside to drain.

Preheat the milk to slightly warmer than room temperature. You're going to need this in 5 minutes.

Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan and then whisking in the flour a little at a time. Make sure that when you stir in some flour it's dissolved before you stir in the next bit. Let the roux cook for 2 - 4 minutes.

Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the warmed milk a little at a time, whisking the whole time. You're making a thick bechamel here, btw. Once the milk is completely stirred in return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring the whole time. You don't want the sauce to burn, here. You can stir in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg at this point. Make sure you don't use two much nutmeg, by the way.

Once it's boiling turn the heat down really really low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.

Put the pasta in the baking dish, pour the sauce over top of it, and gently fold in the cheese. The mac and cheese should be the same consistency the whole way through, at this point.

Sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and then bake for 20-25 minutes. It's done when the top gets crunchy and starts to brown.

One variation with this is that you can add a can of cream of asparagus soup to the bechamel right before you combine everything in the dish. Cream of potato works well as well, but isn't as interesting.