My favorite thing to eat, hands down, is noodles. Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai... whatever way you make it, I like it. But mac and cheese is high up there on the list, especially baked mac and cheese. Is there anything more comforting?
First things first: cook the pasta. I always sneak a few into my mouth after draining it. (Don't you?)
Next up: the béchamel sauce. You'll need butter, flour (mixed with salt and pepper to taste)...
...and milk. Later you'll add cheese. (I like mixing sharp cheddar and mozzarella.)
So, back to the butter. Melt it on low heat, then add the flour/salt/pepper mix.
Whisk. Whisk. Keep whisking. It will look kind of gross, but just trust me on this.
Gradually pour in the milk and continue to whisk. Bring to a steady boil. (It should be getting thicker.)
Reduce the heat, add the cheese, and keep mixing that melty-yummy-goodness.
Did someone say garlic? I love garlic. I am obsessed with garlic. Add some, and keep mixing until your sauce is very thick, about 5-10 minutes, then remove from heat.
Your macaroni is probably growing impatient. Dump it into the sauce. Toss to coat.
I've been playing this trick on myself recently: substitute a portion of the pasta with veggies. It makes the dish healthier, but you still get to indulge. (Hint: just adding veggies doesn't completely count – the point is to not eat as much of the bad stuff.)
I like using individual ramekins instead of one larger casserole dish, because it allows you to add in whatever veggies and spices you like without offending anyone else. Plus, it's cuter. Left: 100% mac and cheese. Right: 50% broccoli, 50% mac and cheese, and a dash of paprika.
The last (and most important) step: breadcrumbs. I prefer panko crumbs. They're lighter and more crispy than regular breadcrumbs.
Pop the ramekins in the oven. Find something to do for twenty painstaking minutes. Then... mac and cheese time!
The first bite. Heavenly.
(Nothing more to say. I'm too busy eating.)
Baked Mac and Cheese (serves 2)
adapted from Fannie Farmer's Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese
4 oz dry macaroni (if you don't have a kitchen scale, it's about 1 cup)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheese (I use half cheddar, half mozzerella)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup broccoli, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1. Cook pasta until done (about 8 minutes). Drain. Set aside.
2. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
3. Add flour, salt, and pepper to melted butter and whisk together for a minute or two.
4. Gradually add milk, continuing to whisk.
5. Bring to a steady boil, then reduce heat.
6. Sprinkle in cheese. Keep stirring until cheese melts and sauce is very thick.
7. Add macaroni and stir to coat.
8. Transfer to ramekins (or a casserole dish). Mix in broccoli, if using.
9. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over top.
10. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown.