Mac ‘n Cheese recipe from The Good Stuff Cookbook: Burgers, Fries, Wedges, and More by Spike Mendelsohn
It’s impossible not to love mac ‘n cheese. It’s not only the ultimate comfort food, but everyone has a great memory of eating it either out of the box or made from scratch and savoring every single bite. Most American-food cookbooks have a version of this classic, and this one is mine. It’s creamy, filled with rosemary, thyme, and sage (three of my favorite herbs), and topped off with panko breadcrumbs, which give it a nice crunchy bite.
THE RECIPE. Simple and straightforward. My cheese sauce did not require nearly the stated amount of flour or the stated amount of time before thickening, but perhaps that was related to my cutting the recipe in half.
THE RESULT. First off, I love macaroni and cheese. Love it. Even (especially?) the made-with-Velveeta stuff. But as promised, Chef Spike’s mac ‘n cheese recipe added a gourmet touch: the herbs (three of my favorites as well), the bacon, and the panko added just enough extra without sending this into the realm of those mac ‘n cheese dishes that no longer resemble good ol’ mac ‘n cheese. I’ll likely make the cheese sauce creamier, and use more of it in proportion to the pasta, when I make this again for myself, but the husband declared this version perfect.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Featured Recipe From: The Good Stuff Cookbook: Burgers, Fries, Wedges, and More
Chef Spike adds: "There’s always a reason to have cheddar cheese sauce on hand—everything goes with it. Warm, oozing cheese is never a bad idea."
Yield: Serves 4
For the Mac 'n Cheese:
Butter for the baking dish
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Cheddar Cheese Sauce (recipe below)*
10 slices bacon
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
½ cup minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
For the Cheddar Cheese Sauce (makes 3 cups):
2 cups whole milk
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 ½ teaspoons ground cayenne
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Mac 'n Cheese:
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a 3-quart ovenproof baking dish with butter, and set aside.
Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the macaroni and salt, reduce to medium heat, and stir to prevent sticking. Cook for 7 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and toss with the oil.
Heat the cheese sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. In a skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Line a metal tray with paper towels. Drain the bacon. Chop the bacon into bits.
In a bowl, combine the bacon, Parmesan, 1 cup of the breadcrumbs, the parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, and pepper. In another bowl, toss together the macaroni and heated cheese sauce, mixing well. Stir the macaroni-cheese mixture into the breadcrumbs mixture. Spread evenly into the prepared baking dish, and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup breadcrumbs.
Place the baking dish on top of a baking pan to catch spills if the cheese bubbles over. Bake for 40 minutes, or until crispy and brown on top.
For the Cheddar Cheese Sauce:
Heat the milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until you see bubbles forming on top. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another saucepan and stir in the flour to make a roux. (Note: A roux, used in classical French cuisine, is a mixture of flour and fat, usually butter or oil.) Add the warm milk, stirring constantly, and continue cooking until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese, whisking constantly to combine. Season with the cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Strain through a sieve to remove any lumps before serving.
© 2010 Spike Mendelsohn
Reprinted with permission from The Good Stuff Cookbook: Burgers, Fries, Wedges, and More, by Spike Mendelsohn (John Wiley & Sons)