Mac ‘n Cheese

Fannie Farmer’s Mac N Cheese Recipe

It all started here, with the discovery of Fannie Farmer’s recipe:

Here are some important tips for those of us beginning to cook:

  1. When cooking pasta, always use enough water. 4 quarts for 1 pound of pasta. But honestly, an extra splash of water won’t hurt. Too little water will definitely ruin your pasta. 
  2. Season your water with a bit of salt. It tastes better. While it’s true that salt water boils at a higher temperature, you’re not using enough salt to make a difference here. 
  3. Bring your water to a true boil before adding your pasta. Not sure if it’s ready yet? You should be at the point where the bubbles are surfacing quickly, you see steam rising from the water, you hear a hissing sound. Remember that extra splash of water from step 1? No harm in it if you boil the water an extra minute before adding the pasta. Too soon and you will ruin your pasta. 
  4. No fair adding more pasta mid-cook. Accidentally added too little pasta for your crowd? You’ll have to start more pasta AFTER your initial pasta is completely done and removed from pot.
  5. Remember to stir your pasta for the first minute so that it won’t stick together. Then stir occasionally until it’s done
  6. Sample a piece of your pasta for doneness. I like mine to be just a little firm (al dente). 
  7. Save a cup of your pasta water to add a splash to your dish if desired. Do not rinse your pasta in water; you want the starchy goodness to cling to your pasta.

I’m not a snob. I also have boxed mac n cheese at home. We like it! If, however, you want to impress someone with a restaurant grade batch of love, try this recipe. It’s a little involved, but I’m giving you plenty of tips to make it fool proof. 

Cheese sauce step 1:

Melt ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter in medium or large saucepan

Now you’ll add 8 tablespoons of flour and begin to whisk. This is what the French call a “roux” (pronounced ROO). We’ll use a white roux (minimal boiling time) for this recipe. Your roux will be done as soon as you notice that it begins to puff up in the saucepan. 

Make a roux

Next we begin adding the cream and the milk. 2 cups of each. A lot, I realize. And you’ll want to add this gradually, whisking like you mean it, until it’s all wonderfully incorporated. This will come to a boil (use medium-low heat). You will boil for 2 minutes, then simmer (bring your heat all the way to the lowest setting) for 10 minutes. It will now be a Bechamel (another fancy French word meaning white sauce). 

Make a bechamel

Now we will add 4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese to the white sauce, turning it into a cheese sauce. I dump the cheese in unceremoniously and stir with a wooden spoon until the cheese is melted completely. Plus I add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. 

Make a cheese sauce

Add this to 1 pound of cooked elbow macaroni. Most people will transfer this to a casserole dish, top with bread crumbs and bake just long enough to brown the bread crumbs. Not me. I like it like this, straight from the saucepan into my belly. Tastes like a fluffy cloud on a warm sunny day. 

Final result