I’ve been on the hunt for a good mac & cheese recipe for a long time. I wanted one made with real ingredients… no blue box required. Every recipe I tried seemed to be stringy or gritty or soggy. I recruited some help from my friend Shannon, and we learned a lot about cooking with real cheese.
Lesson #1: Too much heat makes the protein in the cheese clumpy. Of course, I always thought that I needed to melt the cheese more. Go figure! I was actually making the problem worse.
Lesson #2: Making a butter/flour roux is great for thickening. Cooking it with the milk too long is not so great. I did that the first time, and my sauce was too thick. Fortunately I was able to add a little bit more milk at the end and thin it out nicely.
Lesson #3: Bagged pre-grated shredded cheese is coated with a little bit of cornstarch to keep it from clumping together. While I don’t want clumpy cheese, I also know that cornstarch is a thickener. That means that it’s going to affect the final consistency of my cheese sauce. If you’re using pre-shredded cheese, just add an extra tablespoon or two of milk at the very end if you need to thin out your sauce.
Creamy Mac & Cheese
12 oz. pasta – rotini, elbows, shells
4 Tbl. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. cold milk (divided into 1/2 c. and 1 1/2 c. portions)
8 oz. (2 c.) shredded cheese (I used cheddar, but pick your favorite.)
3/4 tsp. salt (less if your cheese is salty)
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
- Cook your pasta according to the package directions. Don’t overcook it, or it will be mushy. Drain. Rinse.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. (Remember, the key is to not get this too hot!)
- Whisk in the flour and cook for about 5 minutes. Don’t let it brown though.
- Whisk in 1/2 c. of the cold milk. Let it thicken a little.
- Whisk in the other 1 1/2 c. cold milk.
- Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to keep it from sticking.
- *** Turn off the heat.*** This is the key to the cheese not getting gritty.
- Add 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Whisk until the cheese is melted into the sauce.
- Add another 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Whisk until the cheese is melted into the sauce.
- Add the final 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Whisk until the cheese is melted into the sauce.
- Pour sauce over noodles. Mix.
I’m sharing this post at:
:: Mouthwatering Monday hosted by A Southern Fairytale
:: Tip Me Tuesday hosted by Tip Junkie
:: Tasty Tuesday hosted by Balancing Beauty & Bedlam
:: Tempt My Tummy Tuesday hosted by Blessed with Grace
:: Tuesdays at the Table hosted by All the Small Stuff
:: Look What I Made hosted by A Thrifty Mom
:: Works for Me Wednesday hosted by We Are THAT Family
:: Strut Your Stuff Thursdays hosted by Somewhat Simple
:: I’m Lovin’ It Fridays hosted by Tidy Mom
:: Ultimate Recipe Swap hosted by Life As Mom
:: Finer Things Friday hosted by The Finer Things in Life
:: Chic & Crafty hosted by The Frugal Girls
:: Weekend Wrap Up Party hosted by Tater Tots & Jello