I’ve been getting a lot of requests for Mac & Cheese recipes lately. The key to an exceptional macaroni and cheese isn’t the cheese, or pasta- it’s the base sauce. The sauce used for making macaroni and cheese is called a béchamel. A béchamel sauce is a French sauce made with a roux, butter, flour, and nutmeg. Béchamel is one of the five mother sauces which include tomato, veloute, sauce español, and hollandaise. If you really want to become a proficient cook, it’s important to familiarize yourself with all of the mother sauces. Once you are able to make all of these sauces, you can literally create thousands of delicious recipes.
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups of cooked pasta
1 cup of shredded cheese
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat- season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside until ready to use.
At this point, add 1 cup of grated cheese to the béchamel. You can use anything here- fontina, sharp cheddar, brie, goat, jack, and Gouda are just a few examples.
Once the cheese is placed in the warm béchamel, let it sit for a few minutes so it can become soft. Whisk the mixture until the cheese is full incorporated.
Place equal parts of the béchamel-cheese mixture with your choice of pre-cooked pasta (make sure it’s not over-cooked!), and put in a greased oven-proof crock. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes, or until you see the cheese begin to bubble, and the top forms a crust and turns brown.
If you really want to get fancy, try adding lobster or lump crab meat to the mix!
Chef Chuck Kerber