We’ve all been there, Monday evening, Monday blues: crashing into the house after work and ordering trash or worse raiding the freezer for a meal that’s lazy to cook, but deeply dissatisfying to eat.
Well do that no more: my Mac and Cheese is the antidote to Mondays. It’s rich, unctuous and guaranteed to make you feel better about the world and with just 15 minutes of prep and then 30 lazy minutes in the oven there’s still endless amounts of Monday evening left to catch up with your Netflix guilty pleasures.
Perfect Mac & Cheese
The prep for this meal is split into two parts, both can be done at the same time – so first put a pan of water on to boil and set your oven to 350°f or 180°c, and butter a deep baking dish. Once your pan and your oven are both at temperature add a little salt to the water and tip your pasta into the pan.
You’ll need to give the pan a quick stir every couple of minutes, but otherwise it can be left to its own devices. Cook till you’re a minute shy of al dente – the brand of macaroni I use says it’s ready in 8 minutes so I cook it for 7 – drain once your time is up and then return to the cooking pan coating the pasta with olive oil where it can be set aside until you’re finished with the rest of your prep work.
Now while your pasta is cooking, grate your cheeses and find a good deep chefs pan, add the butter and flour to that pan until you have a nice smooth roux (where flour and butter have combined), then add your milk and cream gradually whisking as you go until the mixture starts to bubble, at this point add salt and pepper to taste and tumble in the Gruyere and the Cheddar, keep whisking till it’s smooth and entirely combined and then add your cooked pasta, stir well before pouring the whole mixture into your greased baking dish.
Finally, add your topping – In a small dish combine panko bread crumbs with smoked paprika, parmesan and a little melted butter: then simply tumble that across the top of your pasta, and that’s it – your work is over: into the oven it goes and 30 minutes later you’ll be demolishing it and coming back for seconds I almost guarantee.
Serves 4. Or makes a great meal for 2 with guaranteed leftovers
Going the extra Mile
This is a dish that you can play with to your hearts content, so experiment – you can add almost anything to a Mac & Cheese to suit your tastes, crispy bacon, roasted cauliflower, deeply aromatic chorizo, cayenne pepper, roasted peppers, garlic, little cheese bombs of blue cheese, or a layer maybe of stringy buffalo mozzarella, and I wouldn’t be forgiven if I didn’t mention how Mac and Cheese is a gateway to cholula. So make it your way and your life will be better for it.
- 8oz elbow macaroni
- 2 cups extra mature cheddar cheese
- 1 cup gruyere cheese
- 1.5 cups whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- ⅛ cup all purpose flour
- ¾ cup panko bread crumb
- 2 tbsp butter
- ¼ cup parmesan
- 1 Dash La Chinita smoked paprika (more for less flavorsome brands)
- To taste salt & pepper
Photo Credit: Neil A. Evans © 2019
Photo Location: At Home, Bankside, London, England.