I LOVE macaroni and cheese. It’s one of my favorite foods, and an important staple of any self-respecting cheese-lover’s diet. The problem was that when it came to meal planning, if I ran out of ideas or couldn’t be bothered to find a new recipe or get a little creative, I’d just default to mac and cheese. And this happened a lot. Think big portions of mac and cheese for lunch every day for a week, plus dinner.
During my love affair with this classic, I developed what I consider the quintessential baked macaroni and cheese recipe. Now, there are tons of versions out there, and you might prefer yours a little different, or some panko flair on top – I’m not gonna judge you. This recipe captures the flavors and textures of my childhood without being over the top or too crazy. You can probably cut out the 1/2 tablespoon of butter as well – I like it as a buffer to keep the roux from burning when all the dry spices are added.
1 c uncooked macaroni
2.5 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp paprika
A good dash of worcestershire sauce
1 small bay leaf
1 c whole milk
4 oz cubed or shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I like Cabot Seriously Sharp)
1/4 c yellow onion, diced
Ground pepper to taste
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Liquid measuring cup
- Cutting board
- 1 or 1.5 quart casserole / baking dish (lid not necessary)
- Medium saucepan
- Whisk (a fork will do in a pinch, but a whisk is very handy when making a roux)
- Long handled wooden spoon
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cook pasta according to package directions (al dente), about 6 minutes, and drain. Set aside.
- In the same saucepan, melt butter. Add flour, and whisk to form a roux. Mix constantly for 1-2 minutes.
- Add salt, mustard, paprika, worcestershire sauce. Cook med-low stirring constantly until fragrant and bubbly.
- Slowly add milk, a dash at a time, and stir continuously, until all the milk is incorporated. Add onion and bay leaf, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Add cheese and simmer, stirring until completely melted.
- Remove bay leaf. Return drained pasta to pot and mix together. Grind some black pepper to taste over top.
- Pour pasta mixture into a 2 quart baking dish and bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and gold / brown on top.
Tip: Don’t place lids on the back burner. Most ranges vent heat from the oven through the back burners, which means the pot lid shown in the picture is burning hot.
After you transfer to the baking dish, you can lick the spoon. I won’t judge you. If you get another, smaller spoon so that you can get all the bits of cheese out of the pot, I might judge you a little bit, because I’ve definitely never done that at all ever, or even considered doing such a thing. Have some dignity, man!