Love cheese! Not sorry!
There really is nothing more delicious on a cold/snowy/rainy winter evening than a hot, creamy, cheesy Mac and Cheese.
It's my go to when I'm feeling the need for some warming from the inside out and this quick recipe is finished off with a bake in the oven, so you can clean up while it cooks in preparation for the food coma that will undoubtedly follow.
There are many variations too, so you can make this however the cheesy feeling takes you (bacon, the cheesy feeling ALWAYS takes me to bacon).
Prep Time : 25 mins
Serves : 4 (with some leftovers)
Difficulty : Medium
350 gr pasta (I use elbow or shells, but any will do)
4 tablespoons butter
3-4 tablespoons plain flour
600 ml of whole or semi skimmed milk
270 gr good mature cheddar (or a mix of cheeses such a Red Leicester, Colby, Gouda etc)
40 gr Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 slice of bread, crumbed
8 rashers of bacon - fat on (optional for us non vegetarians out there)
1- First things first, put your pasta on to boil in some salted water (along with a vegetable or chicken stock cube if you fancy some extra flavour) and cook until al-dente (it will continue to cook slightly when baking). Grate all your cheeses.
2 - Preheat the oven to 180*c.
3 - If you're using bacon, slice up the bacon into cubes and fry off in a little butter, rendering some of the fat off, once done set aside.
4 - Now, for your cheesy goodness sauce - In a heavy based pan (not non-stick) melt your butter, when melted add your flour bit by bit (as you may not need that last tablespoon) and stir for 1-2 minutes until it starts to brown a little and form a roux.
5 - Add your milk whisking Constantly until all the lumps are gone and simmer for about 4-5 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken (be careful not to let the sauce stick to the bottom of the pan or get too thick - if so just add a little more milk to loosen it out).
6 - Add 250gr of your cheddar (or cheese mixes) and 20gr of your parmesan and whisk until smooth, along with the salt and pepper.
7 - Add your cooked and drained pasta to the sauce (along with the bacon and juices if you've gone down the bacon train) and then pour into a deep oven dish, top with the leftover cheeses and breadcrumbs and a sprinkling of black pepper.
8 - Bake for about 30 - 35 minutes till browned and bubbling.
Serve with some garlic bread or oven hot ciabatta.
Variations - There are so many!
Bring me all the garlic - Add 2 grated/crushed cloves of garlic to the butter at stage 4.
Tomato me up - Slice some tomatoes on top before you pop it into the oven.
Do you like onions? 'Cause that's Shallot - Caramelise some sweet onions or shallots and spoon them on top just before it goes into the oven for a rich finish or use onion Jam, if you want hassle free.
(And, no, i'm not sorry for that terrible pun)
That's mustard - Add a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard to the cheese sauce for a naughty little kick.
Love me or hate me - Add 1 tablespoon of marmite to the cheese sauce.
Chicken Licken - Add shredded chicken or slice up and cook some chicken breast in with the bacon for a more Alfredo feel.
Where are my vegetables? - Add 2 cups of garden peas or green beans, or some cauliflower and broccoli - because if it has vegetables in it then it must be healthy.
Side-saddle - If you want this as a side dish just half the recipe, it's lovely with things like pulled pork burgers, roast ham, or even a salad.
WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME WAIT FOR CHEESY GOODNESS? - Don't want to bake it? No problem! Just let your pasta cook until completely done and serve straight from the hob (or straight out the pan, if you really can't wait).