Monday, 26 July 2010

Nancy's Best Macaroni and Cheese

Nancy's Best Macaroni and Cheese - The Inky Kitchen

After a work week like last week, I really needed a big plate full of comfort food. Being left to cover three peoples jobs is definitely not fun, and definitely not something I will be repeating after this second week of it is over. Part of me wishes that food didn't make me feel better - I would be a hell of a lot slimmer if it didn't - but sadly I don't earn enough to go on shopping sprees to lift my spirits. Until I win the lottery, I will soothe my soul with delicious but not so nutricious dinners.

This recipe is by far one of the best comforting meals I can think of and involves three of the archetypal warm you up from the inside ingredients - cheese, cream and pasta. Not for the weight watching (or the faint hearted some may say), this oven baked pot of starchy goodness was apparently made popular in the Western world by Thomas Jefferson who brought it back to Virginia, USA after his adventures in Italy, the land of wheaty cheesy goodness. Pasta? Pizza? Cannolis? Boy does that country know how to eat.

Nancy's Best Macaroni and Cheese - The Inky Kitchen
Onions cooking with garlic and sage / Milk infusing with bay leaf and nutmeg

So you can imagine my surprise when Pete let slip that he had NEVER EATEN MACARONI CHEESE? What? Is that possible? Not even the crappy boxed stuff or lame pre-packed ready meals? Of course I had to make him try it, and start with the best version possible - baptism by fire I say. My guy is a big time cheese lover, and emmental is one of his favourites so I added that to my recipe and it was a really good choice adding a slightly sharper edge to the rich creamy sauce.

Nancy's Best Macaroni and Cheese - The Inky Kitchen
Cooking roux / Finished white sauce

You could really use any cheese combination you like, but I wouldn't advise using any more mozzarella than I have here - I think if you upped the amount below it would be too stringy to mix thoroughly through the macaroni and onions. As you can see below my sauce was very elastic but still viscous enough to coat everything well. A sprinkling of parmesan over the top would add another layer of sharpness to cut through the cream.

Nancy's Best Macaroni and Cheese - The Inky Kitchen
Finished cheese sauce / Macaroni, onions and sauce mixed to perfection

Do try to get panko for the topping too, it really is far better than regular breadcrumbs and gives a beautiful crunch to the burnished exterior.

I really would not advise this as a regular meal, one serving probably contains a whole days worth of calories and fat and I don't want to be held responsible for the first death by cheese clogged artories...

Nancy's Best Macaroni and Cheese - The Inky Kitchen
Just going into the oven / Just out of the oven

Nancy's Best Macaroni and Cheese
Makes 8 servings - this can be halved or the leftovers can be frozen after they have cooled for up to 1 month

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
5-6 sage leaves, torn in half
1 large garlic clove, cut in two
500ml milk
2 bay leaves
pinch of nutmeg
30g plain flour
pinch of salt
pinch of ground black pepper
250g grated mozzarella
250g grated mature cheddar
200g grated emmental
250g macaroni
2 cups panko (or regular) breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 190 C / 375 F and butter either 2 medium or 1 large deep sided oven pan. Put these to one side out of your way.

Fry the diced onion, garlic halves and torn sage over medium heat until they are soft and caramelised. Remove the garlic halves and sage leaves and set aside - this can be done in advance and refrigerated if needed.

Warm the milk over low heat with the broken bay leaves and nutmeg until it comes to a simmer, then turn off the heat and remove the bay leaves . Melt the butter in another deep sided pan over medium heat and when it starts to bubble mix in the flour, salt and pepper, then cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the hot milk in 4 parts - it may seize up at first but keep whisking and when all the milk is added you should have a smooth sauce. Keep cooking this mixture, stirring often, until it bubbles and thickens - this should take around 10-12 minutes. While this is cooking put the pasta on to boil for aroudn 8 minutes - you want it to be al dente as it will soften more in the oven.

Take the pan off the heat and thoroughly mix in the cheeses, leaving a little of each to use as topping, and set aside. Drain your al dente macaroni and rinse it in cold water to get most the starch off. Add to the cheese sauce with the onions you cooked earlier and stir through so everything is well combined.

Pour into the buttered oven pan(s) and top with the remaining cheese and a good layer of panko breadcrumbs. Put into the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes until the tops are golden, bubbling and crispy. Serve alongside salad with a balsamic and olive oil dressing and eat your way to high calorie heaven.

Nancy's Best Macaroni and Cheese - The Inky Kitchen


  1. I love homemade macaroni and cheese. I think I have to make this one. Just looking at your pictures makes me hungry.

  2. Oh girl, it looks absolutely scrumptious! My boyfriend is a die-hard macaroni fan so I love to try macaroni recipes. This one will definitely make it to our plates soon. gracias chicka!