Someone asked me recently what the ingredients were for making my mac n cheese. I typed out the list and hit send. It didn’t take long for me to realize that if she just tossed together the list, she would get a soupy mess. SO! I decided to make another batch and take photos to walk her through the process. Turns out, making dinner isn’t just about what you put in it, there has to be directions too. So, here we go, mac n cheese, from scratch!
Preheat oven at 350 degrees and get a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
I know, looks like a lot! I didn’t even have pictured here the crumb topping, my bad!
Bacon (half package)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 C milk
Nutmeg (freshly ground)
1/2 Lb Cheddar Cheese
1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard (I don’t usually measure this)
Dollop of Cream Cheese (TRUST ME!)
2 C Pasta (elbow mac for the norm)
2 slices white bread for crumb top
I am SO old school! I know that bacon can be cooked in the oven these days, but cooking the bacon in the skillet you use to make your cheese sauce will only add extra flavor to the entire dish! Bacon isn’t the only possibility here! Feel free to try sausage or just about any protein that comes from a pig. Once the bacon is crispy, place on a paper towel lined plate and set aside. (Very important note, KEEP OUT OF REACH from any K9’s who may jump up for a tasty treat!) Drain the grease left behind from frying the bacon, keep for another day.
Now that the bacon fat is gone, time to add another fat, butter! Turn down the heat to very low before adding the butter. After the butter is fully melted, add the flour. This will make a blonde roux, your base for any white sauce or gravy… MMM, I said gravy! Look at all those bacon bits that want to get into the dish! This next step is kind of important! Once the butter and flour are completely mixed, let it sit there on low heat, string here and there, for at least 3 minutes! I let mine sit for 5 minutes. This insures the flour texture gets cooked completely out. This would be a good time to get your pasta started.
When it comes to cooking pasta that will be cooked again in the oven, al dente is the key. That being said, if the pasta says 11 minutes like mine, cook for 9. No one likes mushy mac!
Now that your roux is fully cooked, it’s time to add the milk. Keep that sauce moving as you add. Turn the heat up, medium, and keep string. Over the next few minutes, the sauce will reduce and get thicker. Once it starts to really thicken up, lower the heat again to low. Time for flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste. WARNING! Go easy on the salt, especially if the butter you used is salted butter. (cheese also has a decent amount of salt, so best to under salt a bit.) Now, add the fresh ground nutmeg. Just a bit, measure it with the heart. Your Béchamel is done when you get a good coating on the back side of a spoon. Now its time to add and extra kick! Stir in the Dijon mustard and a good dollop of cream cheese. Now its time for the cheddar. Stir it all in until mostly combined. Hopefully by then, your pasta is ready!
If your timing is perfect, you can take the pasta directly from the water to the sauce. This helps to finish melting all the cheese and makes sure that everything is combined. Also, some of the pasta water makes it into the sauce which could help thin things out if the sauce gets too thick. Once all tossed together, add that bacon back into the pan. You are ALMOST DONE!
Before adding the pasta to the dish of choice, make sure it has a liberal about of butter or Pam. You will thank me for that when it comes time to dish out and to clean up. Time to top this bad boy!
A food processor will make quick work of this next step. Take two slices of plain white bread and remove the curst. Place in the food processor and pulse away. Basle is something you can add for a little fresh kick.
Place a generous helping of the crumbs over the mac, add a few dollops of butter, black pepper and paprika and this baby is ready for 30 minutes in the preheated 350 degree oven.
Next thing you know, it’s dinner time! I suggest you let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.
If you made this for dinner, please leave me a comment and let me know! This can also be doubled for a larger family! Serves 2-4, depending on if you want leftovers.