More Mac & Cheese! Don’t pretend you aren’t okay with it. Seriously. It’s cold, there’s still going to be snow for a while. Eat mac & cheese. If you missed the first mac & cheese post you can check it out here. Mike and I had some fun last week comparing family recipes for this cheesy pasta magic. Last week we shared the recipe that his mother made for his family, and this week we are going to look at my moms recipe.
My Mom’s Mac & Cheese
It turned out that there were a couple key differences between the two family recipes. My mom’s recipe is baked to give it a crisp crust on top, and uses a cheese sauce. So let’s start with the cheese sauce. Basic cheese sauce starts out as a cream sauce, thickened with flour called a Bechamel. By adding grated cheese to a Bechamel it becomes a Mornay sauce. Those are simply the french names for cream sauce and cheese sauce, thanks France!
For the pasta, it’s important not to over cook the noodles. Since this all gets baked for a short time, you don’t want to start with mushy noodles. Otherwise they’ll become complete mush in the oven. So cook your macaroni for slightly less than the package directions. If you’re using gluten free noodles, it’s especially important, since they’re more delicate to begin with.
One of my favourite things about this recipe is the crust that forms on top. My mom used to use saltine crackers to give the crust a really yummy crunch, but you can use pretty much any crackers you like. These days I like to use these flaxseed crackers (because flaxseeds are yummy) but in the past I’ve used Ritz crackers, Breton crackers, and day old sourdough bread. And don’t forget to top it all with more cheese. Just in case there wasn’t already enough cheese in your life.
This meal is great for meal prep. The recipe makes about 12 portions and stores well in the fridge for about two weeks. It reheats nicely (especially if the noodles didn’t get over boiled) and makes an easy weeknight dinner. And since I’m still a kid at heart, I obviously enjoy my mac & cheese with ketchup on it. Albeit, it’s homemade ketchup these days, but still!
My Mom’s Mac & Cheese
- 1/4 cup Butter
- 1/4 cup Flour
- 4 cups Milk
- 3 cups Grated cheese A mix of Gruyere, Mozzarella, and Cheddar is what I use.
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
- 980 g Macaroni
- 1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
- 2 cups Saltine Crackers Or your favourite type of cracker
- 3/4 cup Extra cheese for topping
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to slightly less than you normally would. It should still have a bit of bite to it. Drain, put back into it's pot and set aside. Meanwhile, make your cheese sauce.
- Heat your oven to 425F.
- In a large pot on the stove melt the butter over medium heat, until it bubbles. Add the flour and whisk into the butter. This is a roux, that will thicken your sauce. Stir the roux and cook it for about 2-3 minutes. It will smell a bit like sugar cookies after a couple minutes.
- Carefully add the milk to the roux and whisk thoroughly to dissolve the roux in the milk.
- Bring the sauce up to a simmer, gently whisking often to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pot. After about 5-10 minutes the sauce will be much thicker, and will coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the 3 cups of cheese and the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to your tastes. You now have a cheese sauce!
- Add the cheese sauce, and dijon mustard to the pasta pot. Stir to combine well.
- Transfer the cheesy pasta into a 9×13 baking dish, and spread it out evenly. Roughly crumble the crackers over the top of the pasta, and sprinkle on the extra cheese.
- Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the cheese on top is melty, bubbly and golden.
- Remove from the oven, and serve! Yum!