As much as I love macaroni and cheese, it's not the best summer dish. Who wants to fire up the oven when there are so many fresh fruits and vegetables around?
But now that autumn is officially here, mac and cheese started to sound good again. Unfortunately, when I pulled up an old post about The Best Homemade Mac And Cheese EVER, I realized that I never actually published the recipe, instead noting modifications upon modifications to a recipe for kid-friendly mac and cheese from Food Blogga. D'oh.
So, here, in one place, is the recipe for The Best Homemade Mac And Cheese EVER. Since the sauce contains cauliflower, there is no need for a side vegetable. However, this version of macaroni and cheese is especially good with (or followed by) fresh apple slices.
1 bunch cauliflower (if you can find it, orange cauliflower boosts the color)
8 ounces pasta (I like spirals, twists, or campanelle)
2 1/2 cups skim milk, divided
1 tablespoon butter, plus butter to coat a 9 x 13 inch baking dish
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
About 2.5 ounces gruyére, grated
dash grated nutmeg (optional)
salt and pepper to taste (I add more pepper than salt, since the cheese already contains a decent amount of salt)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to boil.
Wash the cauliflower and cut into small pieces.
When the water is boiling, add the cauliflower and cook until tender (10-15 minutes).
Strain the cauliflower from the hot water and set aside.
Add pasta to the pot of hot water and cook per package instructions.
When the cauliflower has cooled, place it in a food processor along with 1/2 cup milk, and process until smooth. Set aside.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and set aside.
Return the pot to the burner, and melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until the flour absorbs the butter and turns golden brown.
Create a white sauce by adding the remaining 2 cups of milk to the flour mixture, about 1/3 cup at a time. Each time milk is added, whisk until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken and simmer, then add more milk.
When all the milk has been used, add a generous amount of black pepper and a dash of nutmeg to the sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer about 5 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat and gently add the puréed cauliflower and grated cheese to the white sauce, stirring until smooth.
Add salt (and additional pepper) to taste.
Mix the pasta into the sauce and stir until coated.
Pour the pasta and sauce into the buttered baking dish, and sprinkle panko on top.
Bake at 375 F for 45 minutes.
Let the mac and cheese sit for about 5 minutes, then serve.