Here's a little insight into my family: I have two younger brothers - Christian (4 years younger than me) who's in medical school and just got married to the sweetest gal Julia, and Drew (8 years younger than me) who's a junior in college. Because Drew and I are so far apart, our lives actually overlapped in Wichita at the same time. I moved back to Wichita around the time he was starting his senior year of high school. And lucky me, I was back in time to reap the benefits of his (at the time) newfound love of cooking. This guy made everything from homemade pasta to chicken wings to mac and cheese. He absolutely kills it with the mac and cheese. (His wings are also STELLAR.) So it's no wonder that 3ish years later when I'm thinking "I'd really like to attempt mac and cheese as a side dish for tonight's dinner, but really hate sifting through Pinterest recipes at 4PM." that I called him up and end up chatting for an hour about said mac and cheese and other life things.
I'm giving you my version of this because it was a mix of "Yeah you want to add a 'crap ton' of butter." and actual measurements. I took notes along the way, along with some helpful tips from Drew because he's the mac and cheese master after all. Full disclosure, he learned the original recipe from this awesome little cookbook, and I changed a few things as he retold it by memory over the phone.
1/2 stick of salted butter
1/2 cup of flour
2-3 cups of milk
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 oz shredded cheese*
1 lb pasta of choice (I used Rigatoni because it's what I had. As long as your noodles are tube shaped - Penne and Macaroni are also ideal - they'll work well.)
Optional: Bacon (but is it really optional??)
*Note: I used Smoked Cheddar Cheese and grated it from a block. If you're taking the time to make this, I fully recommend going the extra mile and grating it yourself instead of getting a package of pre-shredded cheese. It'll melt like a dream, and if you go the smoked cheese route, the end result's flavor will knock your socks off.
Another pro-tip from Drew: If you want to go the extra mile, start the cooking process in a dutch oven, and when your mac and cheese is done, add breadcrumbs, a few cubes of butter, and extra shredded cheese, and bake at 350* until top is golden brown.
- Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions, and while it's cooking, set a timer and start the steps below.
- Melt the butter on medium heat.
- Add flour in slowly while whisking. Let that cook for about 5-8 minutes while continually whisking.
- Slowly pour milk in and whisk continually. I poured it in about 1/2 - 1 cup at a time because Drew was adamant that the cheese sauce be on the thicker side. Nobody wants runny mac and cheese, ya feel? You can always add more milk in later!
- Cook on medium low until sauce is thick like the consistency of frosting.
- Around this time, my pasta was done. I drained my noodles, and added them to the sauce.
- Add in your shredded cheese and mix well. Add in any extras at this time too. Salt and pepper to taste.
- If consistency gets too thick, add a splash of milk and stir on low.