The best pasta for mac and cheese has deep grooves, pockets, and ridges — these features help each noodle catch as much cheese sauce as possible. My favorite pasta shapes for mac and cheese are in the graphic below! Keep in mind that different brands have different names and labels for similarly-shaped pastas.
Always cook your pasta in very salty water — the salt makes a huge difference in flavoring the noodles!
Mac & Cheese Recipes - Martha Stewart's Macaroni & Cheese Recipe - Food52
If you plan on baking your mac and cheese, cook pasta 3 to 4 minutes LESS than al dente. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven, so by putting slightly undercooked pasta into the oven you ensure a perfectly al dente end result. While you can absolutely pick an old favorite and stick with it — helloooooo, all-cheddar-cheese-sauce! Expensive cheese does not equal delicious cheese sauce.
Shred your own cheese.
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Ever look at the ingredients list on the back of pre-shredded cheese? Taste as you go. The first time I added blue cheese to a mac and cheese sauce, I dumped in a verrrrrry generous handful of the stuff. And it tasted horrible.
Stir a little bit of cheese into the sauce, then taste it to see how the flavors are developing. You can always add more cheese! Balance strong flavors with mild ones. Cheeses like white cheddar, havarti, and fontina are great mild cheeses to use alongside those stronger flavors. In recipes like Havarti Spinach Mac and Cheese or Roasted Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese , for example, a single cheese addition means the other flavors can shine through.
But fear not! Totally Rad Roux Tip: You can tell the roux is done when it smells like toasted almonds. I like to use a ratio of butter to flour so, if you use 3 tablespoons of butter, you would also use 3 tablespoons of flour. Cook for a minute or two until roux has thickened and is fragrant, then whisk constantly as you slowly add in the liquid.
See the video at the end of this post for a demo! Season the sauce with a pinch of salt and pepper, then simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until milk has thickened to just about the consistency you want for your cheese sauce. This generally takes minutes.
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If something looks off, never fear! Here are some easy fixes to the most common problems:. Sauce too thick?
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Stir in a splash of milk and mix until the sauce has loosened up. Sauce too thin? Add another handful of cheese! You can also return the sauce to the heat and let it simmer until it thickens, but this can cause the cheese to separate.
Grainy or separated sauce? It happens to the best of us. I actually really love mixing vegetables and fruit-tomatoes into macaroni and cheese. Blanched veggies. Blanch some broccoli florets, peas, cauliflower, or corn in boiling water for a minute or two I actually like to add these veggies in with the pasta when it has about 2 minutes of cook time left!
Roasted peppers. Roast a poblano, jalapeno, or bell pepper at degrees F until the skin has charred. Put hot pepper carefully! With tongs! Other favorites: diced tomato, diced red bell pepper non-roasted. Some sliced onions. A few sliced mushrooms. Maybe a garlic clove. Salt and pepper. Fry up a few bacon slices until crispy, let them cool, then crumble the bacon into your mac. Grilled potatoes, marinated twice for maximum rosemary and garlic flavor!
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