This is my very best Mac ‘n’ Cheese recipe. Although it’s not extremely different from other versions, my recipe is the product of years of trial and error. I have found that, rather than inventing the wheel, it is the smaller details that add to the majesty of this meal as a finished product. I now know I have achieved the Mac ‘n’ Cheese that I would hope and dream of – its luxurious, complex, textured and the ultimate guilty pleasure.
Serves 4 – 6
- 500g Macaroni pasta (one packet)
- 1/4 cup plain white flour
- 1/4 butter, soft and unsalted
- 1/2 cup cheddar or Mozzarella cheese (extra for the topping)
- 1/4 cup bitey parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 1 tablespoon chicken stock (or one stock cube, crumbled)
- 1 – 2 cloves of garlic, minced very finely
- Full cream milk
- 1/2 tablespoon seeded mustard
- 4 – 6 rashers of bacon, cooked
- Bread crumbs
- Fresh parsley to garnish (Optional but recommended)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Pinch of paprika
- Preheat your oven’s broiler/grill to about 180 degrees Celsius.
- Dice your bacon and cook in a frying pan until crispy. Set aside for later.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil, ready for your pasta. Season the boiling water with salt before cooking.
- Once you are familiar with this method, you can make the béchamel sauce while your pasta is cooking.
- To make the béchamel cheese sauce, start by melting the butter in a pot (rather than a pan) with high sides over medium heat. Also, add the minced garlic to the butter and stir for 15 seconds as the butter melts. Add the flour to the butter and whisk together until you have a thick texture on the verge of dough. Deglaze with the wine and stock and whisk together into the butter-flour mixture until thickly combined and without lumps.
- Slowly add the milk, pour-by-pour and whisk constantly. If the sauce begins to curdle (don’t panic), simply remove from the heat and add more milk, continuously whisking until you have a smooth but thick sauce.
- Add the seeded mustard, cheddar and Parmesan to the sauce and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
- You will know the béchamel is ready when there are no lumps, but when it coats a wooden spoon and does not seep when you drag your finger across the wooden spoon through the sauce. (My mouth is already watering while I write this).
- Add the cooked bacon to the béchamel sauce (add the fat juices too – why not!?) and set aside as you cook your pasta.
Pasta & assembling
- Cook your pasta in boiling water (which has been generously seasoned with salt) according to the instructions on the packet.
- Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and pour directly into an ovenproof serving tray.
- Pour the béchamel sauce with the bacon in over the top of the pasta. Use a spoon to toss the cooked pasta through the sauce. You want to take your time and make sure every surface of pasta is coated with the decadent cheese sauce.
- Cover the top surface with grated cheddar cheese and sprinkle bread crumbs over the top. Pinch some Paprika over the top to add the merest suggestion of a fiery finish to the topping. This looks really beautiful when the cheese has been melted on the top.
- Place the assembled serving tray under the broiler/grill for 4 – 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and has begun to brown in spots.
- Allow to cool for 5 or 10 minutes before sprinkling with fresh parsley and serving hot.
I also love to have this with a little bit of Sweet Chilli sauce on the side to cut the heaviness of the cheese. If you need comfort food, look no further than Mac ‘n’ Cheese, which has stood the test of time and is really quite difficult to get wrong!