A spin on the Barefoot Contessa classic. Mac and Cheese is a staple in my home-- but we don't use the blue box around here. Thats like saying a bad word. (And it really is easy to make-- it just seems like a long recipe, but really its just because I am long winded...)
I like to make my mac n cheese from scratch-- so much better and soooo worth it! Originally I started experimenting with it when I tried Ina Garten's gruyere and cheddar macaroni and cheese, but now I toss in different cheese and try out texture changes with different noodles. Its really fun to come up with concoctions that really seem to work. I just finished making a gouda and white sharp cheddar mac and cheese and I have never been more pleased with the outcome. The great thing is that most of this stuff you always have around the house, with the exception of the gouda. Bear with me as I usually do everything to taste (measuring just means more dishes)! Also, this recipe is how much I make for just Adam and I and maybe one guest, double it for a bigger crowd.
A few tablespoons of flour (maybe 2 or 3 )
A few tablespoons of butter (equal to the amount of flour plus another 1 or 2 for breadcrumbs)
about 1 c. hot milk
1 c. white sharp cheddar (thats a really rough guess-- just keep adding until it tastes amazing-- same with the gouda)
1/2 c. to 1 c. gouda (and if you aren't a gouda person, try something else like gruyere or just double the cheddar)
a few cups of noodles (often I do macaroni, but if we have guests I use cavatappi because its so pretty, but sometimes hard to find at the store-- but use what you like! Penne, rotini, whatever)
about 1 c. bread crumbs (can use panko or make your own in the food processor from white bread)
2 roma tomatoes (optional)
Throw the noodles in a pot of boiling water and cook according to directions on box. While noodles are cooking I work on the cheese sauce:
I start by making a roux and which I turn into a bechamel. This sounds really exciting because its fun french cooking terms, but its pretty basic-- mix one part fat with one part thickening agent over heat= a roux, and once you add the hot milk its a bechamel sauce. I like to use a couple tablespoons of butter and a couple tablespoons of flour. Cook over heat for about a minute. You want them to mix together and still be a little loose-- if they clump together add a little more butter, if it's super runny add a little more flour. After the minute, add the hot milk. Keep stirring over heat until you see the very cool transformation of runny milk to a beautiful rich and creamy milk substance. At this point you can remove from the heat and throw in the grated cheeses. Mix them well-- the hot milky sauce should melt the cheese pretty easily. Salt to taste.
Drain noodles and immediately add them to the cheese sauce. For my lunch-- I usually just stop here and toss a couple sliced tomatoes on top and call it a day (I like mine gooey and cheesy but baking it, which Adam prefers, will firm that up a little). For guests, I put it in a baking dish. If I have tomato eaters, I slice a roma tomato really really thin and do a single layer of that over the top with a tiny bit more salt to bring out the flavor of the tomatoes--if not I skip it. I mix bread crumbs with enough melted butter to moisten them (1 or 2 tblspns) and then evenly distribute over the macaroni and tomatoes. I bake it on 400 for about 20 minutes or until the breadcrumbs get all golden and crunchy.
Make sure you eat it hot otherwise the breadcrumbs will turn from an awesome crunch to a soggy mess. This dish is a crowd pleaser for sure and I am loving the discovery of the gouda addition. You will never be sad about making this deliciousness.