Before I start talking about Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, I wanted to say hello and introduce myself, as I'm a new blogger on BAB. I am a writer, editor, and mother of two 7-year old twin girls. I am also obsessed with food and so spend a lot of time thinking about what to feed those two girls (as well as my husband and myself). Meals at our house are often a struggle between what I want to make and what they want to eat, with compromises on both sides. Luckily we all have pretty open palates so everyone is usually happy.
Last Friday night was a perfect example for how this little game of tug-of-war works. I wanted to make a brisket (a lovely Prather Ranch grass fed cut that I got at the farmer’s market). My daughters, however, had other plans. When I mentioned in the morning that I would make them a barbecued brisket during our traditional Friday Movie Night dinner, they both looked at me and frowned. Maddie said she wanted macaroni and cheese and Sophie agreed. As we were late for school, I ignored the comment so we could finish our morning routine, find shoes and rain jackets, and leave the house five minutes late for the bell. Although I like my children to want to eat whatever I make, my general rule is that I'm the mom and the cook, so I get to decide and I was determined to make brisket. Later that day, however, as I walked toward the grocery story in the cold rain, shivering and trying not to step in puddles, I realized that my daughters might be on to something. It really was the perfect day for homemade macaroni and cheese, all oozy and gooey and warm. My cold body started to crave it.
One thing I love about macaroni and cheese (other than its wonderful comfort food appeal), is that you can tweak it to suit your family’s needs. You can pretty much use whatever cheeses you like: I’ve had Italian versions with mozzarella and provolone, traditional versions with cheddar and American cheeses, and more epicurean types made with a roux, beautiful European cheeses, and heavy cream. You can add meat (such as ham, which I think tastes delicious), vegetables and herbs (parsley, peas, spinach and wild mushrooms are great), eggs (to fluff it up in the oven), or even toasted nuts (which I once saw and, I must admit, found appalling).
At our house, however, macaroni and cheese is usually simply what the name suggests –macaroni, cheese, and some milk and butter along with seasonings for a little extra flavor. I'm a food purist (well, at least most of the time) and so don't like to add too many ingredients to the dish as I want to taste the delicious cheese and pasta flavors. I also like to use at least three different types of cheeses as it gives the dish a richer and more nuanced taste. It's great to throw in something creamy (I like medium Tillamook cheddar or Colby), something sharp like aged provolone, Parmesan, or Gruyère, and something with a slightly distinct taste like Fontina or Cotswold.
A general rule for homemade macaroni and cheese is to make sure that every piece of pasta is covered in some creamy goodness. You don’t want a rude awakening from comfort-food nirvana by biting into a piece of plain pasta instead of bubbling savory cheese-coated noodles. Likewise, it's unappealing when the cheese clumps together in separated blobs.