We realized recently that in almost a year of being married, we have somehow completely avoided ever making macaroni and cheese for any of our hundreds of meals together. Obviously that’s an inappropriate and irresponsible use of our kitchen, so the recipe before you is our contrite effort to remedy the situation.
One of the secrets to the creativity of the recipes Rachel and I come up with is the fact that both of us have very distinct opinions about every food on the planet, and we’re pretty stubborn about it. As a result, we often find it’s helpful to have a brainstorming session, or “ridiculous argument”, about the best way to make various dishes (some readers may recognize this process as a symptom of the well-known condition, “being a young married couple”). Nevertheless, we’ve learned to use these preferences to create new and interesting compromises in the kitchen, and this mac & cheese is one of our creations.
– I absolutely needed the pasta to be elbow macaroni and nothing else, while Rachel felt pretty whimsical about trying some new shapes. In the end the pantry arbitrated the dispute by only having fusilli, with no elbow macaroni in sight.
– Rachel usually likes to go as simple as possible when it comes to cheese, and would probably put cheddar on everything if I didn’t have some weird hangup about finding the exact correct cheese for each application. I suggested some bleu cheese, and really liked the idea of a “smoked cheddar” flavor, so Rachel gave in and let us try some bolder flavors.
– Both of us, in our foolish college days, made some unfortunate ventures into the land of Easy Mac, and have forever scarred our palates against mushy, slimy, processed cheesy pasta (probably not a bad thing). We both wanted to make sure our homemade version didn’t remind us of our five-minute-powdered-cheese follies, so we decided to bake the dish with a nice crust to give nicer texture and flavor. Please stop eating Easy Mac.
There you have it: the inside look at the recipe development lab behind the recipes here on the site. Try this one out and let me know how it goes. The recipe is heavily based on one of Alton’s (I think), but we made enough adjustments that it probably tastes pretty different from the original. The twirly pasta actually did a great job of catching the sauce and holding the flavor, but I’d really enjoy trying other shapes (including elbow macaroni) to see how well they worked.
Let’s get to it!
Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
10-12 oz. macaroni or other small pasta
3 tb butter
3 tb flour
2 tsp powered mustard
3 cups milk
1/2 tsp paprika
10 oz. smoked cheddar cheese (or regular cheddar plus 1/2 – 1 tsp liquid smoke)
1 oz. crumbled gorgonzola or other bleu cheese
1 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
crackers and some of the cheese to crumble on top
Begin cooking your pasta like you normally would.
In the meantime, melt the butter, and whisk in the flour and mustard powder until it is a smooth paste. Cook for a few minutes, stirring fairly frequently.
Add the milk and bring to a simmer.
Beat the egg and add it in gradually to the milk mixture.
Stir in the cheeses and mix in thoroughly.
Add the paprika, liquid smoke (if using), salt and pepper.
Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and fold together with the cheese sauce.
Add to a large baking dish and top with crumbled crackers and more cheddar cheese.
Bake at 350°F for around 30 minutes. Remove and eat!
Hope you like it, we really enjoyed the flavor. The bleu cheese and smokiness added nice flavors that I really enjoyed, but of course the recipe would be great even without those substitutions.