July 14th is Bastille Day in France but in the United States it is Macaroni Day. What better way to consume your macaroni than in the All American Favorite – Macaroni and Cheese. There are many ways in which you can make this yummy dish and there is a whole range of pasta shapes that one can use. One of the favorites of my family is Wagon Wheels, the shape that is reminiscent of the American Pioneer’s trek westward.
Macaroni and Cheese is traditionally made with Cheddar Cheese, but the addition of other cheese gives more depth of flavor and creaminess. To make Mac & Cheese you will need:
½ lb. Pasta
½ lb. Cheddar Cheese
¼ lb. Gouda or Cream Cheese (for creaminess)
4 Tbsps. unsalted Butter
4 Tbsps. All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Milk, Cream or Half & Half
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
Dash Worcestershire Sauce
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Bring at least 4 quarts of salted water to a rapid boil. The salt adds flavor to the pasta and also increases the temperature point of the water, thus making the pasta cook faster. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add the Pasta, stir and continue boiling (uncovered) for anywhere from 8 – 12 minutes. (This will depend on the pasta used) It can be just a tad undercooked if the Mac & Cheese is to go into the oven. All pasta should be cooked to ‘al dente’ which gives it just a little bite.
While the Pasta is cooking, begin making your Cheese Sauce. Shred your Cheese if you purchased block cheese and set it aside.
In the photo above, the Cheese is sitll in the Food Processor but with the blade removed.
Dice your Onion (about ¼ cup will do); using the Onion is optional but it does give nice flavor to the cheese.
Use a large Saucepan and melt the Butter over low heat; add the Onion and cook until soft. Next stir in the Flour and continue stirring until a paste is formed. Slowly add the Milk, stirring continuously. If the mixture seems to be a little lumpy, use your whisk to smooth it out. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens (it should be able to coat the back of a metal spoon). Once the White Sauce is of the desired consistency, add the Shredded Cheese and the Cream Cheese. If Gouda is used instead of Cream Cheese, this should be shredded along with the Cheddar Cheese.
Shut the heat off and continue stirring until all the Cheese is melted. Add the Mustard, Worcestershire and Salt and White Pepper to taste. (Approximately 1 tsp. Salt and ½ tsp. White Pepper)
Pour the cooked Pasta into a colander and shake out all the water.
If you don’t add the Cheese Sauce immediately, rinse the Pasta with warm water to keep it from sticking together. Return the Pasta to its cooking pot and slowly add the Cheese Sauce. Gently mix, over and under, to coat all the macaroni.
Transfer the Cheese coated Pasta to a baking dish. About ½ hour before serving time, place the dish in the oven and heat until the Mac & Cheese is thoroughly heated through. (This will take about 20 minutes) Mac & Cheese can be made early in the day or the night before, but be sure to refrigerate it until ready to use. If you do refrigerate it, allow the dish to warm up before baking or place it uncovered, in a cold oven and then turn the oven on. This will allow the dish to warm up slowly without being stressed to the point of breaking.
This is just one way to enjoy Macaroni. You can use any shape pasta you desired and any combination of cheeses. So enjoy Macaroni Day with your own creation of Mac & Cheese or a Macaroni Salad.