What’s mac and cheese exactly?
If you are from or have visited an English-speaking country, odds are you are already more than familiar with macaroni and cheese, AKA mac n cheese. This classic savory dish is often described as the king of comfort-food, and with good reason. After all, much like its name suggests, macaroni and cheese is a yummy mix of pasta and cheesy sauce, which is pretty much all you need to fill your belly with happiness. Depending on the way it is prepared, you may simply eat mac and cheese as a quick snack with a smooth cheese sauce, or you can enjoy it as a full-on casserole dish for a bigger meal.
While mac & cheese is definitely a staple, you may find that depending on who you ask, the exact mac and cheese recipe might vary a fair bit. Starting with the cheese, while the overall consensus seems to be that cheddar makes for a classic mac and cheese taste, many will prefer to toss in Monterey Jack cheese, American cheese, or even mix and match for extra yumminess! There will also be those who debate whether additional cream is needed to attain the perfect creamy sauce texture, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, some breading to make it extra crisp. And of course, some will eat it as a main-dish on its own, while others will prefer to treat it as a side-dish to go with more proteins, such as salmon, sausage, or any other meat.
How do you make mac and cheese from scratch?
Assuming you want to go the casserole route, you’ll need to cook pasta first. For this part, you can simply follow the instructions on the packaging. Boil some water and add a little salt. When the water is boiling to satisfaction, add the uncooked pasta. Easy peasy! Let the pasta cook until al-dente, i.e. cooked but still firm. Once you’ve drained your pasta, transfer into your preferred baking dish with a tablespoon of butter.
To make the cheese sauce itself. Begin by making your melted butter (use low to medium heat). You can then add flour all at once and stir. When stirred in correctly, you should have a nice smooth mix. Finally, stir in milk gradually with a whisk. The sauce should thicken after around 5-10 minutes cooking. You can now add cheese and mix again.
Now’s the time to pour your cheese sauce directly onto your pasta and sprinkle some crumbs on top for texture. Don’t forget to add seasoning for an especially tasty baked macaroni and cheese! Preheat your oven to 200C before baking. Insert when hot and leave in oven for 30 minutes for a delicious crispy dish. Your mac and cheese is ready! Enjoy the most comforting food you’ll find, with a crispy shell filled with creamy and cheesy pasta!
You may of course wish to customize your macaroni and cheese recipe. No need for instance to use Cheddar cheese specifically. Macaroni and cheese recipes are many and entirely yours to reinvent! Add a touch of Italian sophistication with parmesan cheese, dried tomatoes and bread crumb. Got children who refuse to touch anything green? Mix in some chopped broccoli, or spinach, perhaps a side of diced mushroom, and watch them eat it all up! Not looking for anything drastic, just an easy mac and cheese switch up? Swap cheddar for other types of melted cheese / grated cheese, such as Monterey-jack, Gouda, Gruyere (Swiss cheese), or VelVeeta! Homemade mac and cheese should suit your craving down to the last ingredients!
What made mac and cheese such a staple of Americanfood?
Originally imported to the US from France during the 18th century, macaroni and cheese has quickly shot up to one of the top spots in comfort food recipes—although it is certainly not unfair to point out that while you can very much still find it if you open a cookbook, modern mac and cheese is especially common in its quick snack format. Kraft introduced its signature cheese macaroni take as early as 1937 and began marketing it as a cheap family friendly dish ready within minutes. No need to spend hours preparing homemade mac and cheese, your Kraft dinner is this just a couple steps away from being ready!
Beyond its appeal as an easy meal however, it is obvious why macaroni and cheese is so popular. It is after all simply cheese pasta, which is another way of saying guaranteed goodness. And contrarily to say lasagna, you hardly need any other cooking ingredients to pull it off in style, which is another point for mac and cheese!