I just read a super interesting blog article about Intuitive Eating (IE), and I think I finally found a name for the “diet” I’ve been following for the past little while. Which is to say: no diet – just eating according to how your body feels. The article explains it in detail (and links to other resources), but in short: sometimes, “you just need a burger”. In this case, sometimes, you’re just craving mac & cheese. I know I have been, lately, especially with the colder weather finally rolling in!
So I figured I’d share my Classic, Go-To Mac & Cheese recipe.
It’s not the most decadent mac & cheese recipe out there, but it’s certainly not the least; it finds that delightful Goldilocks middle-ground. In other words, it’s just decadent enough to satisfy your mid-week cheesy cravings, but not so over-the-top that you’ll have any regrets after (unless you eat the whole thing in one sitting. That might be pushing it).
(Getting back to the article, briefly: the goal of Intuitive Eating is to eat according to your cravings, without putting too much emphasis on calories or feeling guilty afterwards, but I think we can all recognize that there’s a line.)
I consider this another one of my basic/beginner recipes since it’s reliable and almost as easy as making mac & cheese from the box. I could quite literally make it in my sleep. I know I probably say that a lot for someone who enjoys the process of cooking, but I promise you this recipe really is that easy. The steps are simple and logical: pasta, sauce, cheese, bake!
Everything starts with the Bechamel, a white sauce based on a roux. A roux is just a combination of melted butter, flour, and, in my case, chopped garlic. Just whisk in some milk and you’ve got yourself a Bechamel! With the addition of dijon mustard and 2 cheeses, and by topping it off with breadcrumbs and baking in the oven, this mac & cheese is loaded with way more flavour than the boxed kind. Though I could never genuinely criticize the neon orange glory in good conscience…
Hint: Dividing the shredded cheese and tossing some with the warm cooked pasta BEFORE topping with sauce makes it ultra stringy and gooey!
- ¼ c. butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. dijon mustard (optional)
- ¼ + 2 tbsp flour
- 1 ½ c. milk
- 1¼ c. grated mozzarella or cheddar cheese, divided
- ½ c. grated Parmesan, divided
- ¼ pasta water
- ½ c. seasoned breadcrumbs
- ~375-400g short pasta (i.e.: elbow macaroni, Farfalle, penne, etc)
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add pasta and cook until just under al dente, about 7-8 minutes, depending on the kind of pasta you use.
- In the meantime, in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter.
- Add minced garlic and sauté for around 3 minutes. Stir in dijon mustard, if using.
- Raise heat to medium. Carefully whisk in flour, making sure all the flour is combined with the butter. You want the flour to start cooking. This forms the roux, the base for the sauce.
- While whisking continuously, slowly pour in the milk. You want to ensure there are no clumps of roux. As the sauce heats, it will thicken rapidly. Once the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, such that when you run your finger along it, the sauce doesn't run, remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Add ½ c. grated mozzarella or cheddar and ¼ c. Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Once the pasta has cooked, add ¼ c. of the pasta water to the sauce. You can add more depending on how loose or thick the sauce is.
- Ladle enough sauce to cover the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked pasta into the dish.
- Toss the hot pasta with the remaining grated cheese for maximum gooeyness, then ladle the remaining sauce on top and combine.
- Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and remaining Parmesan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until bubbling with a golden brown top.