From Martha Stewart Living
Rich, creamy and just about impossible to resist, this childhood favorite graduates to grown-up status with this quick yet elegant recipe. The secret is a blend of three cheeses, plus mustard powder for a subtle kick. To get creative, try these two delicious variations as well.
THREE TIPS THAT MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
1. PICK A NOODLE. Choose a small shape with ridges or curves that the cheese sauce can cling to.
2. KEEP IT SMOOTH. To prevent clumps in the bechamel sauce, warm the milk in a saucepan or microwave before adding it to the roux.
3. BLEND WELL. Each cheese plays a crucial role in this dish’s flavor and texture.
— AMERICAN melts smoothly.
— SHARP CHEDDAR adds punch.
— PARMESAN has a hint of nuttiness.
MACARONI AND CHEESE
1 pound short pasta, like elbow macaroni, cavatappi or rigatoni
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 cups whole milk, warm
1 cup (4 ounces) American cheese, chopped
2 cups (8 ounces) sharp cheddar, grated
1 cup (2 ounces) Parmesan, grated
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1. COOK PASTA. Prepare pasta in a medium pot of boiling salted water until al dente, about 2 minutes less than per package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water (which you can use later — see The Magic of Pasta Water below).
2. MAKE A BECHAMEL. Return empty pot to medium heat; add butter. When butter melts and foams, add flour and whisk until darkened slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add mustard powder; whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. MELT IN CHEESE. Reduce heat to low and add cheese in 3 batches, starting with American. Follow with cheddar and Parmesan. Whisk to fully combine after adding each cheese. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Add pasta, stir to coat and serve.
THE NEXT LEVEL: TWO MORE WAYS TO INDULGE
BAKED MACARONI WITH BROILED TOMATOES
For this remix of the beloved tomato soup and grilled cheese combination, slice 3 Roma tomatoes into thick rounds, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Broil until tomatoes start to brown, about 8 minutes; let cool slightly. Prepare 12 ounces cavatappi per step 1; toss with cheese sauce from step 3 and 1/4 cup pasta water. Transfer to an 8-inch baking dish. In a bowl, mix 1 cup panko with 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1/4 cup each grated Parmesan and cheddar. Top pasta with broiled tomatoes and panko mixture. Bake at 350 F until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
SWISS-FONDUE MAC AND CHEESE
Take a quick trip to the Alps. Prepare 1 pound rigatoni, and replace 1/4 cup of the whole milk with dry vermouth. In step 3, use these cheeses: 1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely chopped Raclette, 2 cups (8 ounces) grated Gruyere and 2 cups (4 ounces) grated Emmentaler. Sprinkle with chopped flat-leaf parsley; serve.
THE MAGIC OF PASTA WATER
As mac and cheese cools, the sauce tightens and loses some of its creaminess. But if you don’t serve it right away, no worries — just place the pot over a low flame, and stir in reserved pasta water, a few tablespoons at a time, to loosen the sauce without diluting the rich flavor.