This baked mac and cheese for two is perfect for those times when you want something simple, delicious, comforting and date night in!
I was never a fan of homemade baked mac and cheese – GASP! Let me explain, sometimes it was made ahead and the macaroni was overcooked and mushy, or sometimes it didn’t taste like it was flavoured with anything. Nonetheless, one morning I woke up craving it and with a little testing, I think I have found the solution to, what is now, my previous dislike.
The answer for me was combining my Grandmother’s recipe with some tricks from The Food Lab Cookbook and countless recipes I have read – and then formatting it for two people, my father and I… which now can also be my boyfriend and I… or a VERY hungry one – usually me!
Solving the over cooked macaroni debacle:
DO NOT COOK THE PASTA! Say what?! Yep! Don’t cook the pasta when you are going to bake a pasta dish – if you do boil, you get mushy, overcooked pasta EVEN if you only cook it al dente.
What to do? Soak baby soak.
Soak the pasta in a large bowl with boiling water and a bit of salt, stirring after the first 5 minutes to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick together. 30 minutes later you have perfectly plumped pasta that is ideal for baking in that creamy cheese sauce (or any sauce for that matter!). See more of an explanation on this from The Food Lab’s author Kenji Lopez-Alt on the Serious Eats blog!
Solving the taste bud debacle:
My answer to this was using a good sharp cheddar, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Consequently using a white cheddar makes the mac look a little anemic, but not if it is baked! Just look at those nice orange-y edges. If this is not enough for you, use a marbled or orange cheddar or american cheese – also try adding other cheeses! I typically stick with cheddar… but experiment!
For me solving those debacles made mac and cheese that comforting meal for me that everyone else was already enjoying. If you’re like me, I may have solved your problems! If not, hopefully, I opened your eyes to the soaking technique!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do – whether I am with someone or by myself!
- 1 1/2 cups macaroni
- Boiling water
- Pinch of Salt
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese grated
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tsp.nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400F.
Place macaroni in a large heat proof bowl, pour boiling water over top with a pinch of salt. After 5 minutes stir the pasta to ensure that it does not stick together. Let sit for 30 minutes.
As the pasta soaks, in a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour and cook until golden making a roux, about 1 minute.
Slowly add the milk stirring constantly, heat until thickened and bubbling at the edges, about 4 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cheddar, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Once pasta is done soaking, drain and mix with the cheese mixture until well coated.
Transfer to a casserole dish and bake for 25 minutes covered, then uncovered until golden under the broiler, about 5 minutes.
Did you make this recipe?
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