There are just certain recipes that everyone needs to have in their recipe box, aren’t there? You know those recipes that are so basic that you can make them into hundreds of different things? Like a basic tomato sauce, or a basic recipe for mashed potatoes, or even a basic vinaigrette. You can take those basics and create dozens of different recipes from each of them.
I think one of the most classic, home-style recipes that any cook should have is a good macaroni and cheese. It’s always a hit with both children and adults, pairs well with most proteins and can you ever dress it up! You can use this basic recipe and add in whatever you like. Cooked, diced ham is great. A cupful of frozen peas. Some fresh, blanched spinach. Or how about throwing in some sun-dried tomatoes and smoky bacon. Hmmm. Or change to a different cut of pasta, maybe some penne, and add in some shrimp or lobster. You can vary the cheese as well. Maybe your family prefers American. Go for that instead! Or maybe you’d like to try a combination of parmesan, asiago, and goat cheese. I have an idea for making a bleu cheese and bacon mac and cheese that I can hardly wait to try. Now, that’s how you take a classic recipe and turn it on its ear.
Whatever you choose to do to take your mac and cheese over the top, here’s a good basic recipe to start with.
Begin by cooking 8 ounces of elbow macaroni according to the package directions. Drain it and set it aside for now.
Grate 10 ounces of extra sharp cheddar cheese. Set that aside, too.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large skillet, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour, whisking until smooth. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for one minute.
Meanwhile, microwave the milk on high for 1 ½ minutes. Gradually whisk the warm milk into the butter and flour mixture. Cook the sauce while whisking for five minutes or until it becomes slightly thickened.
Stir in the salt, black pepper, cayenne (if using), and 1 cup of the grated cheese. Mix well and then add the well-drained macaroni. Stir to combine.
Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased two-quart baking dish. Top with the remaining cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
Classic creamy, baked macaroni and cheese
- 8 oz. elbow macaroni, cooked
- 10 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 tblsp. butter
- 2 tblsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Prepare the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Grate the cheese and set it aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large skillet, over medium-low heat, melt the butter.
- Sprinkle in the flour, whisking until smooth.
- Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute.
- Meanwhile, microwave the milk on high for 1 ½ minutes.
- Gradually whisk in the warm milk.
- Whisk constantly for five minutes or until thickened.
- Stir in the salt, black pepper, 1 cup of the grated cheese and cayenne (if using).
- Stir in the well drained macaroni.
- Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased two-quart baking dish.
- Top with the remaining cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
Other macaroni and cheese recipes you might enjoy from around the internet:
- Ina Garten’s Lobster Mac and Cheese
- Three-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese from Brown Eyed Baker
- Greek Style Macaroni and Cheese from Angie McGowan via Steamy Kitchen
- Dianasaur Dishes’ Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
- Brie Style Mac and Cheese with Mushrooms from The Kitchn
- A Cozy Kitchen’s Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese
What I was cooking…