Macaroni and Cheese

What do I cook when the grandkids come for a visit? Well, lots of things depending on which one, but I know I am safe if I have some Macaroni and Cheese on hand. Just in case.

All of my grandchildren like Macaroni and Cheese.

Doesn’t everybody?

If I have time, I make the recipe ahead and freeze portions in one-serving casserole dishes, then thaw and bake them until they’re hot enough.

Macaroni and Cheese is easy enough to make. And yet people ask me questions about it all the time. Mostly about the sauce separating or feeling grainy or gritty. So, here’s some tips for would-be Macaroni and Cheese makers out there. Followed by my standard recipe.

1. You can use a variety of cheeses, even blue-type cheeses, which give the dish a tangy taste. Although most people use cheddar by itself, that can make the texture grainy.

2. Use young cheeses such as asiago, non-aged cheddar, havarti, muenster, non-aged gouda, and so on. These have more water content than aged, older, drier cheeses and melt more easily, keeping the mixture stable.

3. Include American cheese; adding a bit of American cheese to the mix can stabilize the sauce too.

4. Use whole milk rather than skim because fat serves as a stabilizer.

5: Shred, chop or grate the cheese so that it melts more easily when you add it to the hot white sauce. Only add a little at a time and mix it in thoroughly before adding more. If you add cheese all at once there’s more of a tendency for the sauce to separate.

Macaroni and Cheese

8 ounces elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

pinch or two of freshly grated nutmeg

4 ounces American cheese, shredded or chopped

2 ounces Muenster, Gouda or a blue-veined cheese, shredded, chopped or crumbled

2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or chopped

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the macaroni until it is al dente, drain and set aside. In a saucepan melt the butter over low-medium heat. When it looks foamy, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, without letting the mixture become brown. Gradually add the milk and stir constantly using a whisk until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, American cheese, Muenster (or other) cheese and 2 ounces of cheddar cheese and whisk the sauce until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir the sauce into the cooked macaroni. Spoon into a baking dish and top with grated cheddar cheese. Bake for a few minutes until the grated cheese is hot and melty or the bread crumbs are golden brown. Makes 4 servings