Macaroni and Cheese
And, no, I don't mean the kind in the blue box. Or any kind that starts with powdered cheese or a squeeze packet of cheese. Not that there is anything wrong with Boxed Mac & Cheese from a blue box! My kids love it and have been eating it for years. I remember living on it in college and adding cream of mushroom soup or a can of tuna fish to make it special.
Today, if you think that macaroni and cheese is just a kid's dish, or just comfort food for those cold days of winter time, it might be better to think of it as pasta in a classic French sauce instead of plain old mac and cheese. This recipe describes a classic American dish based on a classic French sauce. And you didn't think you could be gourmet chef.
Mornay sauce is a French sauce based on béchamel sauce, one of the 5 classic mother sauces with cheese stirred into it. I know, a lot of fancy names but béchamel is a simple white sauce made with milk, flour, butter, onion and seasoned with salt and pepper. When you add cheese to this simple sauce, you have Mornay sauce. Besides homemade Mac & Cheese, Mornay is great on seafood and vegetables.
This may all sound way too fancy and over the top, but it really isn't difficult to prepare and the results are far better than what comes out of the box. Does it take more time and more effort? A little, but not much more and the finished product is so much more appealing and when you look at the ingredients on the box (sodium tripolyphosphate, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, Yellow 5 & 6), much healthier too.
Mix the Mornay sauce with any pasta shape you like, and voila: stove top macaroni and cheese! It's really easy to make, and your kids will enjoy helping. Older kids will even be able to make this on their own, in not much more time than it takes to make the boxed version.
Healthier Mac & Cheese
Making macaroni and cheese yourself allows you to control how much fat you put in, in the form of cheese and dairy, and how much salt. It also lets you sneak in some vegetables, if that's necessary in your house. If your kids already love vegetables, you don't even need to sneak them in, just stir in whatever vegetables they like.
Classic Moray sauce is usually made with half Gruyere and half Parmesan cheese, but don't let that stop you from trying what's on hand or cheeses your kids love. I made my version with shredded Colby Jack.
Here is a basic recipe for Mac & Cheese and below you will find a few alternative suggestions but have fun and add your own twist to this recipe to make it your own. Be sure to let me know your favorite adaptions in the comments section below.
Cooking Tip: Don't worry about reducing the milk too much. The first time I made this I let it thicken too much forgetting the cheese will help make it thick. You want to reduce it some for a few minutes and then add the cheese.
Didn't have elboe macaroni but this ditalini worked just as well if not better.
Get the water boiling and pasta cooking before starting the sauce.
Cooking onions until translucent
Making a roux by adding a little flour
Add the dairy, bring to a boil and then simmer to reduce
Add the cheese, stir and watch it melt into a wonderful sauce Mornay
Add the pasta, season with salt & pepper and stir together
My daughter added a little Old Bay Seasoning to her Mac & Cheese