Something about Mac and Cheese really never appealed to me. Which is weird because ordinary boiled and drained pasta sprinkled with grated cheese was one of my first ventures in the kitchen and I found it so comforting and very occasionally I still do! Though these days I usually only have it when I’m in the middle of a death-hangover and don’t have the mental, physical or psychological ability to make anything more taxing or even dial the phone for a delivery. Still, when I make it, it’s there, I do enjoy it and find it comforting. So I’m not sure why Mac and Cheese was always so off-putting to me. Maybe because Americans go on about it like it’s manna from heaven or because an old college friend of mine, an American, gave me a packet of instant Mac and Cheese he brought from home. He gave it to me like he was expecting some massive appreciation, as if he had given me a piece of the original cross or some amazing futuristic, life-changing invention that my dark-ages country was the worse for not having. I made it, ate it, didn’t like it. I think I threw away the second sachet of pasta and powder that came in the box because there was a definite footy taste from it.
This real Mac and Cheese is poles apart though. The name “Mac and Cheese” really sells it short though because as the recipe below shows, there is a lot more to it than just mac and cheese which really enhances the flavour profile. As nice as it was and as much of a convert as I am, I do think that it probably shouldn’t be the main dish for a meal. An amazing side? Yes! An alternative to a potato dish? Eh… An alternative to a second potato dish? Absolutely! Which is kind of how I think they eat it in the States. One of many dishes served at some massive party like Thanksgiving.
- 500 g dried macaroni
- 75 g butter, plus 1 tbsp melted
- 75 g flour
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
- 750 ml milk
- 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp sea salt flakes
- 250 g sharp red cheddar, grated. Plus extra to top.
- 100 g Panko breadcrumbs.
- Cook your pasta in salted water according to packet instructions.
- Melt 75 grams of butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Whisk to combine and cook for a few minutes until thick.
- Whisk in the thyme, cayenne and black pepper.
- Add 250 ml of milk and whisk in until it is very thick before you add in the remaining 500 ml of milk and whisk to combine and allow to come up to a simmer.
- Add the nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, dijon and salt and mix so it is all incorporated.
- Pour over your now cooked and drained pasta. Mix well and transfer everything to an oven-proof dish.
- Scatter over a little more grated cheese and combine the breadcrumbs with a tbsp of melted butter as scatter over the pasta too.
- Bake at 200 degrees celsius for 20 minutes if baking right away. If you let this cool first give it 40-50 minutes.