The easiest mac and cheese is the one from the box. The next one up, though, may be this one: instead of making a béchamel with butter, flour and milk–an easy enough process, but a process nonetheless–you heat three cups of cream and dump a bunch of grated cheese into it. You flavor the resulting sauce with garlic, onion, mustard, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce until the flavors are bold and then mix it up with boiled macaroni. Pour into a baking dish, top with Parmesan and breadcrumbs, and into a hot oven it goes: 30 to 40 minutes later, you have a real deal mac and cheese that has dinner guests, like the ones you see above (that’s Michael and John), fighting for the first bite.
The recipe comes to us from a cookbook that I’m growing to love the more and more I use it: Staffmeals by David Waltuck. Anita Lo turned me on to the book when she talked about how influential Chef Waltuck was to her career; the book inspired me to make these orange cranberry scones and these biscuits. The food is not fancy restaurant food (even though Watluck was the chef of a fancy restaurant when he wrote the book): it’s soul-pleasing comfort food. And is there comfort food more soul-pleasing than mac and cheese?
So let’s review his process. You heat cream:
You add grated cheese (I used a sharp orange cheddar for color; next time, though, I might use a sharper, whiter cheese):
You use these to punch up the flavor:
Meanwhile, you boil the macaroni until it’s very al dente (5 to 6 minutes)
And rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking; then strain it and pour it into a baking dish (that’s a brand new one Craig’s mom got me for Christmanukkah!):
Taste your cheese sauce one last time for flavor:
Then pour it over the macaroni:
Top with lots of grated Parmesan:
And bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and crusty:
You’ve got to admit, you want to eat that. Let it cool for a minute or two and then dig in!
The only thing that I didn’t like about this mac and cheese was my choice of cheese. Next time, I’m going to read up on the best cheese to use for a potent mac; as it was, though, I really liked this technique for making it. An all-cream sauce is indulgent, yes, but what is mac and cheese if not indulgent? Add this one to your mac and cheese files.
Recipe: Easy Mac and Cheese
Summary: An easy, creamy mac and cheese from David Waltuck’s “Staffmeals.”
- Course (kosher) salt
- 1 package (16 ounces) ridged elbow macaroni
- 3 cups heavy (or whipping) cream
- 2 1/2 cups grated sharp yellow Cheddar cheese (about 10 ounces)
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Dash of Tabasco sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I used more! And added Pecorino for good measure)
- 1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs (homemade or store-bought)
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Bring a large stockpot of water and 1/4 cup of the salt to a boil over high heat.
- When the water is boiling, add the macaroni and cook, stirring occasionally, until flexible but very al dente, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain, then let the macaroni stand in the colander under cold running water until chilled. Drain again, then transfer to a medium-size baking dish or shallow casserole and set aside.
- Bring the cream to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat (watch it, though: you don’t want it to bubble up!). Reduce the heat to low and stir in the grated Cheddar, onion, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire, Tabasco, pepper, and salt to taste. Stir over low heat just until the cheese is completely melted, then remove the pan from the heat and taste and adjust the seasoning; the flavor should be strong.
- Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni in the baking dish and stir thoroughly to coat. Sprinkle first the grated Parmesan, then the bread crumbs, over the mixture and bake until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden brown and crusty, 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand a minute or two before serving.
If you want to cook this ahead for a dinner party, make the sauce and boil the mac, stirring them together in the baking dish and then cover with plastic before refrigerating. An hour before you want to cook it, take it out of the fridge to come to room temperature and top with the Parmesan and breadcrumbs just before it goes into the oven.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 40 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6