This dish is an incredible crowd pleaser. I made it tonight for Dan and my early Christmas party because it is one of his very favorites. It is not a complex meal, but it is satisfying and comforting. If you are prepared to stir and stir and stir just a touch more, then you will meet with success!
I often cruise the odds and ends cheese bin at the grocery store looking for new and unusual cheeses to try. For this dish I got lucky with some smoked provolone and a little odd end of something called dubliners cheese. I added these to about 4 oz of sharp cheddar and it came out very nicely. You can use what ever combination of cheeses strike your fancy, I usually smell them at the store to try and envision which ones will meld well in the finished dish. Of course, if you stick with 8 oz of sharp cheddar it will come out very nicely every time.
For this recipe I usually measure out each of the ingredients ahead of time and cut the cheese in to small chunks before I get started. Once you get that skillet going you really have to stir it constantly until the cheese is done.
- 8 oz macaroni
- 4 tbs butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- 8 oz misc cheese
- salt & pepper to taste
Start by cooking 8 oz of macaroni. I like the spirals or shells best for this dish, but I just use what I have on hand. This time I used tiny elbow macaroni. When the noodles are soft, pour them through the strainer and set aside.
In a good sized skillet melt 4 tbs of butter over low heat. Slowly add a half cup of flour letting it form a kind of paste.
After you’ve incorporated all the flour it will likely look kind of dry and grainy. Now start adding the milk – slowly. You want to wait until the flour milk mixture thickens before you add the next small amount of milk. It is hard to be patient through this part of the process. You can turn the heat up a bit if you want to go faster, but be careful that you don’t boil the milk.
If you add too much milk just keep stirring until it thickens back up. I usually do this at least once each time I make this dish and I always think that I’ve ruined it, but it always turns out okay in the end. It’s a pretty hardy dish really.
Just keep stirring!
You can start adding the cheese after you’ve added all the milk. Just drop a handful of cheese in stir until it melts in, then add another handful until all the cheese has been added.
Once all the cheese has been added you can turn off the heat. Now you will need to put half of the noodles into an oven safe dish. Then pour the cheese sauce over the noodles. Then add the rest of the noodles and gently mix the two together.
Put in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If you’d like a crispy cheese top, you can pull it out and add a little grated cheese and put back in the oven for 10 more minutes. After you pull it out try and let it set for about 5 minutes before you dive in.
I recommend serving this dish with something very green. It is a heavy dish and very cheesy so a nice salad, broccoli, kale or asparagus will help to balance it out. Tonight I made a little green salad with tomatoes from this past weeks CSA.