At some point, I finally got wise to the fact that REAL cheese has better flavor. I've been playing with homemade mac & cheese recipes for a couple years now - some have been quite bland, some have been very onion-y, some haven't been quite creamy enough while others have been a bit too soupy for my taste. None have really been bad - in fact some have been quite good, just not exactly what I was looking for at the time.
I happened to see a mac & cheese recipe last week when I was flipping through Wine Spectator. I also happened to be craving comfort food in a major way (it's FALL, people!) so I decided to give it a whirl.
The recipe was basic, but it was delicious. Noe and I agreed this has been the best recipe I have used for mac & cheese so far.
First, I got my dry ingredients ready (using my new Le Creuset pinch bowls from Gray Goose Cookery - aren't they cute?) The dry (and ok, one wet) ingredients were salt and pepper; flour, red pepper flakes, and mustard.
Then, I chopped up an onion and grated a TON of cheese. Seriously - my arm got tired. If I hadn't cooked enough to know that freshly grated, quality cheddar tastes much better than the Kraft cheese-in-a-bag, I would have taken the easy way out. I cooked the onion up with some butter, being careful NOT to brown it.
Then I sprinkled the flour in with the onion, poured in some milk, and stirred until it thickened. Once it was the proper consistency, I took it off the heat, dumped in all my grated cheddar, the mustard, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, and stirred until smooth.
While all this was happening, I had been bringing a pot of salted water to a boil and cooking up half a box of cavatappi (hey, it was what I had in the cupboard). When the pasta was cooked to just a little less done than I'd want to eat it, I drained it and stirred it in to the cheese mixture.
I finished up by grating a whole mess of parmesan over the top and throwing it in the oven for about half an hour at 400 degrees.
We ate it immediately when it came out:
This was so basic, but so good: it was not too onion-y, and the pepper flakes added just enough flavor without really giving any noticeable heat. We ate it with a green salad and some dry, mineral-y white wine, but the recipe offered several variations to go with different white wines (like leaving out the pepper flakes and swapping some of the cheddar for mozz to pair with a round, more buttery chardonnay). If you're looking for a good, basic comfort food recipe - nothing fancy, but tasty - I suggest tracking this one down and trying it out.