Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

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Macaroni and cheese that you make on the stovetop? It doesn’t have to come out of a box.

Natural foods brands of boxed macaroni and cheese exist. Our favorite is Annie’s. It has the most integrity, and tastes the best, of any powdered-cheese-and-noodles-in-a-box product of its kind, and we’ve tried ’em all. But there’s an even better option. And it’s easy. With this homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, make your own whole-food macaroni and cheese. The miracle is …

It doesn’t take any longer than making it from a box!

Skip to the recipe.

I’ve been making this for my little boy since he was big enough to help me make it, which means since he was about two. I love that he is growing up knowing things about food and cooking that it took me decades to figure out and find out about. No stranger to the roux and the white sauce is he. It’s never, never too early to include children in the kitchen. The earlier even the most complex and technical concepts are presented, the longer they’ll have to sink in.

And did I say? This is delicious. Cheesy, creamy, rich and wholesome. When you make it with low-carb Dreamfields pasta, as I do, the nutritional profile is even better. Do we need to be feeding our kids any more starch than necessary? Pardon my flouting of the USDA pyramid, but no, we do not. The less, the better. I have an even easier and lower-carb mac and cheese for kids up my sleeve. If you like this, you’ll love that one, too. Watch for it!

Homemade macaroni and cheese recipe
Extra notes

I like cheddar for this dish. Provolone is good, too.

You don’t really have to measure the cheese. I don’t. The only time I ever did was so that I could write up this recipe. Just grate a bunch, as much as looks delicious, and toss it in.

Homemade macaroni and cheese recipe
The recipe

1 cup elbow macaroni (I use Dreamfields low-carb pasta)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon flour, whole wheat or all-purpose
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup or 2 ounces cheese of your choice, grated
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly grated black pepper and a dash of cayenne, if your child will stand for it (Mine will not; he doesn’t like the specks.)

Equipment that bears mentioning
Cheese grater
Heavy saucepan

In a nutshell
Cook macaroni. Make a white sauce. Add grated cheese. Add macaroni.

In detail
In a 2- or 3-quart saucepan, cover the macaroni with 1 to 2 inches of water. Add salt. Put on the burner and turn it to the highest setting. Ignore package instructions that tell you to boil the water first and to use lots of water. As it turns out, these universal instructions are completely off-base.

When water comes to a boil, turn heat down to lowest setting so the water doesn’t boil over. Cook to your liking. Drain.

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a small, heavy saucepan, cook flour over medium-low heat for about three minutes. This step will keep it from tasting raw in the sauce. It also dries it out so that it’s less liable to clump soggiily together and form horrible lumps that you can never get rid of later.

Add butter. Whisk gently (to avoid spattering). Fry the flour and butter together about three more minutes. You have made a roux.

Add the milk about one or two tablespoons at a time. At each addition, whisk to combine all the flour and keep lumps from forming. Add the next bit of milk whenever the mixture thickens. Turn up the heat to medium, or enough to boil the milk a little sooner, when you have about two-thirds of the milk in the pan. After all the milk is in, whisk and cook for a minute or two. Turn off the heat. You have made white sauce.

Grate the cheese and add it in. Stir to melt.

Add macaroni.

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