creamy macaroni and cheese
Everyone has a favorite food from childhood. The meal I most looked forward to was my moms famous spaghetti and meatballs. She cooked her sauce(painfully)slow on the stove top. She never used a prepared jarred sauce. It was always crushed tomatoes and tomato puree mixed together, laced heavily with oregano,and simmered for what seemed like hours on the stove top filling the house with incredible aromas. My brother, sister and I would fumble around trying to keep ourselves busy, but always with our eyes on the kitchen, anxiously waiting for dinner to be ready.
And those meatballs-moist tender juicy balls of meat. They were so good that I always saved them for last, mashing them up with my fork and mixing them with a little red sauce. To this day I don’t know what she put in those meatballs. I have never been able to duplicate them.
The dish I really wanted to love, as all kids do, was macaroni and cheese. But I couldn’t only because my mom was constantly changing the way she made it. Just as I was getting used to one kind she would switch things around. So I never had the chance to have a favorite. My mom was raised in the south so to say she was a good cook was an understatement. But for some reason she always made different versions of her macaroni and cheese. All very good but different in some way. It seemed she was trying to recapture a macaroni and cheese that she had,maybe growing up, and she just hadn’t quite gotten it to her liking.
Well it seems I have picked up where my mother left off . But for different reasons. When I have stray pieces of cheese and cheese ends in the refrigerator I just shred them up and make macaroni and cheese. It doesn’t matter what kind of cheese it is as long as its sharp and pungent.
I do have one perfect macaroni and cheese that I make for holidays and special occasions. I don’t tinkle with this recipe. It’s the perfect combination of cheeses baked to bubbly perfection.However, with up to seven different cheeses and a thick creamy sauce its best left for special occasions.
Sometimes I just have a taste for pasta with a cheesy sauce without having to go through the whole process of melting flour and butter to make a roux that will turn into a bechamel that will eventually turn into a cheese sauce. And because my kids love macaroni and cheese and would eat it every day it’s always good to have an easy one pot version in my repertoire.
This is truly a one pot, creamy macaroni and cheese that is very good. The reason why it can be made in one pot is because I don’t drain all of the pasta water from the macaroni. I just carefully dump out the water leaving about a cup in with the cooked macaroni. To this I add a beurre manié. A beurre manié is a fancy french term for softened butter and flour mixed together that can be used to thicken sauces and gravy.
Once the beurre manié is mixed into the macaroni with the starchy water it will start to thicken. You can then add a little milk for richness and dump in any kind of cheese you wish and you’ve got creamy macaroni and cheese within minutes. Because I like cheese I always have a variety in the house. I’ve had this macaroni and cheese with blue cheese, Gruyère, Monterey Jack and any combinations of sharp cheddar cheese . Use anything you have. Just make its good flavored melting cheese.
One pot,creamy macaroni and cheese
3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 pound elbow pasta
1 cup of 2% or whole milk
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces Monterey jack cheese, shredded
fresh ground black pepper
To make the beurre manié,using a fork, mash the softened butter and flour together in a small bowl until they are fully combined and you have one smooth lump. Set aside.
Add the coarse salt to a large pot of water and cook the pasta until al dente according to the directions on the box.
When the pasta is cooked, carefully pour out most of the water leaving about one cup of pasta water in with the pasta.
Put the pot with the pasta and one cup of pasta water back on the stove.
Add the lump of beurre manié and using a spoon mix together until you can see it start to thicken.
Add the milk, slowly, and mix as you continue to stir.
Add all your shredded cheese and continue to mix until everything has melted and become creamy. Serve immediately.