I've always loved macaroni cheese. There's just something so indulgent about taking a sauce that's basically just cheese, and then smothering the whole dish in more cheese before grilling it to a crispy finish.
I do have one unfortunate macaroni memory. In primary school, I went round to a friend's house for tea, and said friend's mother wondering what on earth she could feed me. (Vegetarians were a bit of a novelty at the time.) When she offered up macaroni cheese I was delighted... until the plate arrived, containing something from a tin that was limp and soggy and barely recognisable as food. I was so used to my mum's homemade version that the idea of tinned pasta was just completely bewildering. I'd like to believe I ate it up without a word of complaint, but I'm not sure I had much tact as a kid, so I probably gave the game away with confusion and disappointment written all over my face.
This, however, is the real deal.
Although (shhh) I didn't actually use macaroni: I used fusilli bucati, a kind of spring-shaped hollow fusilli. The end result looks a bit like several macaronis strung together, and I think is more fun to eat.
200g dried pasta
For the cheese sauce:
20g (¾oz) butter
30g (1oz) flour
200ml (6½fl.oz, or about 3tbsp less than 1 cup) semi-skimmed milk
2tsp wholegrain mustard
80g mature cheddar cheese
For the crunchy topping:
20g mature cheddar cheese
½ slice of bread (slightly stale is okay)
- Put the pasta on to boil, according to the packet instructions. (My dried pasta takes about 10 minutes to cook; if you're using fresh, it would be a lot quicker, so you will want to do this step later when the sauce is almost cooked.)
- Melt the butter in a deep saucepan, and add the flour together with a little milk to make a roux (with the consistency of a thick paste). Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add more milk a little at a time, whisking steadily to combine with the flour mixture and eliminate lumps.
- Bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce thickens.
- Stir in the mustard and pepper into the white sauce.
- Grate the cheese.
- Drain the cooked pasta, and stir into the sauce along with the grated cheese.
- If necessary, decant the mixture into an oven-proof dish. I skipped this step as my saucepan is oven-proof with metal handles - just be careful not to accidentally pick up the pan by the handle afterwards (a mistake I've made too many times!)
- Prepare the topping by grating the cheese and crumbling the bread into fine crumbs.
- Sprinkle the cheese and breadcrumbs evenly over the surface of the mixture.
- Grill for about five minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown. Serve immediately.