Sometimes only cheesy pasta will do. Learn how to make our perfect macaroni cheese.
Whether you call it macaroni cheese or mac ‘n’ cheese, it’s hard to think of a dish that couldn’t be improved by a portion of cheesy, bubbling pasta on the side. But macaroni cheese is more than just a side dish, of course. Serve as a main meal with some green veg (or even pimp your mac by mixing in some smoked bacon lardons and mushrooms before cooking). One thing that macaroni cheese aficionados around the world agree on, though, is that a crunchy topping is a must – we use breadcrumbs and Parmesan for a golden finish.
- 350g (12oz) macaroni
- 1-2 tbsp white breadcrumbs
- 1-2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- For the white sauce:
- 600ml (1 pint) milk
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 6-8 peppercorns
- Handful of parsley stalks
- 50g (1¾oz) butter
- 50g (1¾oz) plain flour
- Salt and white pepper
- 250g (8oz) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 tsp made English mustard, optional
Set the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
To make the white sauce: Pour the milk into a pan and add the onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and parsley stalks. Place the pan on the hob and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the milk to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the milk into a jug, discarding the flavourings.
Melt the butter in a clean pan. Tip in the flour and mix well until it binds together to form a thick paste. Cook the paste for 1-2 minutes over a low heat to cook the flour, but not to colour it.
Gradually add the infused milk, beating well all the time it’s cooking and allowing the mixture to come to the boil between each addition of milk.
Once all the milk has been added, simmer the sauce for a few minutes and season to taste with salt and white pepper. The sauce can be used immediately.
Cook the macaroni in boiling water for about 12 mins, or according to the packet instructions, until it’s just tender. Drain it well.
Stir the Cheddar into the white sauce and then the mustard, if using. Add the pasta and mix well, then turn the mixture out into an ovenproof dish.
Scatter the breadcrumbs and Parmesan over the top of the macaroni. Bake it in the centre of the oven for 20-30 mins, or until it’s light golden and the sauce is bubbling at the edges. Serve immediately with a freshly made salad.
Top tip for making macaroni cheese
This mac and cheese can be frozen and enjoyed at a later date. Just let it cool before putting it in the freezer.
We think the best cheeses for mac and cheese are Parmesan and a mature Cheddar. But we'd encourage experimentation – try using cheeses like Gruyère, Gouda or Gorgonzola for a different flavour.
A dollop of mustard gives this recipe a kick, but you could try mixing in sriracha for an even spicier macaroni cheese.