Written by Katherine Sasser.
Photos by Elizabeth McLaurin.
Some posts need a lot of words to convince you to try a recipe . Other posts need only a well-known title and a drool-worthy photograph. This is one of those posts.
Who doesn’t know and love Macaroni & Cheese? If there’s such thing as a classic American comfort food, this might be it. I have been perfecting this recipe for years, road testing it on my children, and it has received five gold stars from the Sasser youth.
The truth is, even bad Macaroni & Cheese is good. Even the stuff made from a box with the powdered neon orange “cheese” is good. My point is, I don’t have to sell you on Macaroni & Cheese.
What I do need to sell you on, and what I hope won’t keep us from continuing to respect one another, is the fact that the secret to really delicious, really creamy, really top-notch Macaroni & Cheese is a very low-brow ingredient.
I’m talking about Velveeta.
I won’t even pretend to call it cheese. It’s not. It sits on the shelf and requires no refrigeration. It’s not cheese, really. But it is the secret to the macaroni universe, and I want you to know if there was another way, I would have found it.
There is not another way. Embrace the Velveeta. Your Macaroni & Cheese will thank you.
Macaroni and Cheese
yield: 9” x 13” pan, serving 10-12
1 pound elbow macaroni
4 cups whole milk (do not even think about using low-fat or non-fat milk!)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 oz American or Velveeta cheese, cut into large chunks
8 oz Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more for salting the pasta water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of Kosher salt to the water. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package. You want the pasta to be completely cooked, but with a bit of a bite, which for most standard elbow pastas is around 9 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk. You can do this in a small pot on the stove, or you can do it in a large glass measuring cup in the microwave. You want it steaming, but not boiling. Set it aside once it is hot.
In a large (4-quart) pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook the butter and flour, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Continue whisking and slowly add the hot milk, whisking to remove any lumps. Continue whisking and cooking until you see a few bubbles pop on the surface and the mixture is thick and smooth.
Off the heat, add both of the cheeses, the Kosher salt, and the pepper. Stir until the cheeses are completely melted. Sometimes if my cheese is quite cold, I have to return the pot to the stove briefly (over low heat) to facilitate complete melting.
Add the cooked pasta to the cheese sauce, and stir well. Pour into a 9 X 13 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly.
Note: To make ahead, refrigerate the completed dish before baking. Add 5-10 minutes to the total baking time.