If you still have not figured out what you want to cook on Thanksgiving, baked macaroni and cheese is something worth considering. It is simple, affordable, and delicious. I have had many different types of baked mac and cheese and most are dry. I do not like a dry mac and cheese, it just does not seem appealing to me. If you like the creamy cheesy essence of mac and cheese, look no further, this recipe is for you.
1/2 pound of elbow pasta (macaroni pasta)
1 cup of fresh sharp cheddar
1 cup of fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ground mustard
4 tablespoons of plain flour
16 oz of whole milk
Pinch of smoked paprika
Large fine mesh strainer
Step One A: Grate Your Cheese
Always grate your cheese, do not buy pre-shredded cheese. There is this chemical called natamycin, or sometimes potato starch, and it does not allow the béchamel/roux sauce to mix well. In fact, it will be very clunky and it will not melt as well as you would think it would. Grate a cup each of fresh sharp cheddar as well as mozzarella. Set the mozzarella aside, but put the fresh sharp cheddar in a mixing bowl.
Step One B: Preheat
Preheat a non-convection oven for 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It is very important to preheat your oven first because you need it on the right temperature. Many people do not preheat their ovens and just pop their dish in the oven right away. If you do that, it will not cook properly. Always preheat your oven.
Step Two: Boil
Take a pot and fill it up with water, salt the water, put the pot on high heat, simple as that. Very important that you boil the water first. Never throw in the pasta right away. Again, it will not cook properly. Additionally, adding salt not only adds some flavor into the pasta, but it also increases the temperature so it will cook the pasta more efficiently.
Step Three: Boil the Pasta
Once the pot is bubbling, that means it is ready to boil the pasta. Put the pasta in the pot and stir it every once in a while so it does not stick. Do this for seven to eight minutes, or until al dente. To know when it is al dente, it must be firm to the bite. If it is super chewy, it means it is overcooked.
Step Four: Drain
Once you drain your pasta, immediately mix a tablespoon of unsalted butter into the pasta so that it cools down.
Step Five: Make a Béchamel/Roux Sauce
Heat a pan over medium heat and add the half cup of unsalted butter in. Use the handle of the pan and swirl it around while it melts. Once fully melted, add in your four tablespoons of flour and ground mustard. Whisk until you have this paste consistency for two minutes. SLOWLY add sixteen ounces of milk one by one and stir while making it smooth. You do not want to dump the milk right away otherwise it will be a clumpy béchamel. Slowly bring the heat down to low while stirring until thickened. Season with a pinch of smoked paprika as well as a pinch of salt.
Step Six: Combine the Béchamel/Roux Sauce with Fresh Sharp Cheddar
When you are about to mix the sauce in with the cheese, make sure you use a large strainer to pour the sauce into the cheese. This allows the consistency of the creamy mixture to stay smooth. Once the sauce is in the cheese, whisk and stir until it is melted and smooth. Once completed, add the elbow pasta/macaroni and mix all together.
Step Seven: Bake
Gently put in your mac and cheese mixture into a baking dish. Spread it nice and evenly. Garnish the mozzarella evenly on top and spread it everywhere. Make sure the mac and cheese is covered with mozzarella. Bake for fifteen to twenty minutes. The goal is to have the cheese to look like a cheese pizza.
Step Eight: Eat
Super easy step. Pull the baking dish out, serve immediately and just eat that creamy gooey mac and cheese.