I have been through so many versions of my homemade mac & cheese recipes that I have tossed them all out and started over once again.
I have gone back to basics about what Mac & Cheese is in order to rebuild my recipes and this is my start...
I like some specific characteristics of Mac & Cheese and this approach gives me all of those so far.
1. I like a browned top.
2. I like it creamy underneath that brown top
3. I like the option of going with a quick mac & cheese that doesn't go in the oven or on the grill for a browned top... something like a quick and easy version of Kraft Mac & Cheese.
What you see here is the beginning of my new recipe which is much simpler than any of my previous efforts. This recipe requires just one basic cooking skill. You need to be able to make a roux/bechamel. It's very easy to do. But it has to be done right. The bechamel is where you determine exactly how creamy your mac & cheese will be. It's not so much in the cheese choice.
The basic elements of this recipe are as follows:
Cook 8 oz of your choice of macaroni noodles... while those are cooking..... do this...
Make a roux with 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup butter. Wisk that roux for a couple minutes until it just starts to change color and darken very slightly. Then you drizzle in 2 cups of COLD milk and wisk constantly. This is gonna tighten up severely as you start adding the milk but it will loosen up nicely as you go. You just need to wisk quicky to keep it from being lumpy. If it is lumpy just keep wisking until its smooth. Keep wisking until it starts to thicken. This entire process takes about 6 to 8 minutes if you have your pan preheated.
I like to season my bechamel with some salt, pepper, and dry mustard. I am experimenting at this stage with additional flavors as well. Small amounts of cayenne pepper and/or hot sauce here are quite interesting. Just work with small amounts of things until you find your sweet spot.
Drain the macaroni noodles and then combine the noodles and the bechamel. Add in 2 cups or so of shredded cheeses of your choice and mix until the cheese has melted. Add anything else you might want to add at this stage also.
At THIS point, you have a finished homemade stovetop type macaroni and cheese that is delicious and it only took you about 12 minutes to prepare. If you wanna take it to the next level...........
Put it in an 8" cast iron skillet or an 8x8 " baking dish and top it with some additional cheese. Toss it in the oven or on the grill at around 425°F until the top is as brown as you might like... I usually go about 30 minutes. Double the recipe if you want to do it in a 12" pan or a 9x13 baking dish.
IF your mac & cheese is not as creamy as you would like, add more milk when making the bechamel. If you want it less creamy, just add a little less milk.