This easy and somewhat elegant variation on mac-n-cheese is immeasurably better than anything you could get out of a package and it freezes well. Makes 5-6 1/2 cup servings.
- 1-1/2 cups (before cooking) pasta, fully cooked (I like a mixture of penne and orecchio)
- 3 Tb butter
- 3 level Tb all purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups hot milk (zap it with the microwave)
- 4 oz white Cheddar, shredded
- 2-3 oz Jarlsberg or Swiss, shredded
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 2 dashes (or to taste) Tabasco
- Panko bread crumbs (I like Kroger's Parmesan-herb panko for this.).
Start cooking the pasta, shred the cheeses, and heat the milk.
In a 2-1/2 qt saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Be careful not to scorch. Add the flour, raise the heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until the mixture changes from butter yellow to blonde. Be careful not to splash or spatter. A roux like this gets very hot; that's why they call it Cajun napalm. Reduce heat a bit and add the milk slowly, stirring constantly. When the mixture reaches the boiling point, it will thicken. Reduce the heat to very low. Season with Tabasco and nutmeg; stir in the seasonings.
Switch from whisk to spoon at this point. (It's the devil's own job to get cheese sauce out of a whisk.) Add about a quarter of the shredded cheeses and stir until the cheeses are completely melted. Add the rest, one quarter at a time, allowing each batch to melt completely before adding the next one. Be careful with the heat. If you get this too hot the fat and milk solids in the cheese will separate and the sauce will be grainy. (It'll still taste good; it just won't be as pretty.)
Add the pasta and stir. Spoon the mac-n-cheese into single-serving ramekins; you'll get five or six of the half-cup size. Sprinkle the bread crumbs as evenly and thinly as possible over each ramekin.
You can cover these with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band and refrigerate or freeze them until you're ready to use them. Thaw frozen mac-n-cheese over night in the refrigerator.
When ready to serve, bake for about 30 minutes at 350° until the panko begins to brown.
Mac-n-cheese for kids: Use the recipe above, but use 6-7 oz medium or sharp yellow Cheddar instead of white Cheddar and Jarlsberg and omit the Tabasco or cut it down to one dash. Use seashell or elbow macaroni and maybe plain panko crumbs.
Orignially posted: 2017-04-13