This is by far my favorite comfort food! I have lost track of how many times I have made this for myself as a ‘quiet Friday night in’ treat, or brought it to friends’ dinner parties, or had people over to enjoy it together. So here it is, my recipe of mac and cheese! Don’t be alarmed, it has a lot of steps but it’s quite easy to make and totally worth the effort.
Preparation Time: 30-45 min | Cooking Time: 30-45 min | Serves: 4 | Spice level: 0
What you’ll need:
- 350-400g of macaroni (I used the cavatappi one, but any is good here)
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1 normal onion, whole
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- About 2 Tbsp butter
- 3 full Tbsp plain flour
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 600ml whole milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 whole cloves
- 5 whole peppercorns
- 5 bacon rashers (I used smoked bacon, but it’s up to you)
- 250g shredded mozzarella
- 200g shredded cheddar cheese
- 50g of grated parmesan
- 50g of breadcrumbs
- 1/2 Tbsp of garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- A pinch of ground nutmeg
- French parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper q.b.
- In the stove, heat the milk with the onion sliced in half, along with the peppercorns, bay leaf and cloves. Once it starts to boil, turn the heat off, put a lid on your saucepan and let the milk infuse for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 190ºC.
- Cut your bacon into small pieces and fry it on a non-stick pan until it starts to crisp. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic and half of the chopped red onion, sautéing them until they are almost soft. Set aside.
- Once the milk has infused, you can sieve it and set it aside, ready for the next step.
- The next thing to do is a kind of béchamel sauce. In a saucepan, melt the butter in low heat, then add the flour. The butter and the flour should roll nicely into a doughy ball, which shouldn’t stick to your saucepan. Add a bit more flour if you need it to be less sticky. Cook this dough for 1 minute or so, with the help of a wooden spoon.
- Gradually add your milk to this dough, mixing throughout. It’s very important that you add the milk gradually and that you keep stirring. The mixture will become more fluid and more sauce-like over time. Once the milk is over, let it simmer, stirring continually, until it reduces to a consistency similar to double cream. Add your Dijon mustard and season the sauce with salt and pepper (if you are unsure of how much, give it a taste; see the notes for more on this). Finally, add the nutmeg.
- (While your sauce is reducing, bring a big pot of salted water to the boil to cook the pasta).
- Turn the heat off from the saucepan and add the mozzarella, cheddar and half of the parmesan cheese to the sauce. Fold everything to combine: the cheeses should melt nicely in the warm sauce. Set aside for now.
- Cook your pasta until it’s al dente. It’s very important that you do not overcook your pasta. Drain it once it’s cooked – don’t use any oil or your sauce might not stick to the pasta once it’s time to combine the two.
- In a large baking tray, tip in the cooked pasta and then add the bacon mixture on top. Drop the sauce all over this and mix everything together, making sure that all of the pasta is covered by the sauce.
- Mix together the breadcrumbs, the rest of the parmesan, dried oregano and garlic powder. Sprinkle this on top of the pasta: it will create a nice crunchy crust.
- Bake it for about 20 minutes. It should be creamy and bubbly once it’s done. Serve with some fresh chopped parsley.
- If you’d like a vegetarian Mac and Cheese, don’t add the bacon and make sure your parmesan cheese is vegetarian.
- Mozzarella gives this dish the stringy delicious bits of melted cheese, so it’s always a must. That said, you can use another cheese to replace the cheddar, if you want a stronger taste (e.g. Gruyère is a good choice). Just be careful when seasoning your béchamel base, as some cheeses tend to be very salty.
- Dijon mustard has a very particular taste, so it’s important that you use this kind. If you don’t have any, that’s fine but I don’t recommend substituting it for other kinds of mustard.
- This recipe is enough for a big baking tray, or you can divide your pasta in small ones for individual portions.