First and foremost, it’s important you know that cooking mac and cheese at home is a breeze. The crux of this comfort food dish is nailing a quick cheese sauce — made with butter, pasta water, and cheese. That’s it, but most of us still take the easy way out here. We use boxed mac and cheese with a cheese powder in place of the real thing. That’s okay, we suppose. But adding real cheese (and butter) takes this simple dish to new heights.
Making mac and cheese from scratch takes just about the exact same amount of time as making it with the powder from the box. You’re boiling pasta and adding cheese. This dish shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes to make, ever. Even if you’re adding a few flourishes, the recipe for mac and cheese is always going to be easy and quick.
Whipping up a pot of mac and cheese is also fairly low maintenance. You don’t need any fancy equipment or appliances here. Just a pot. That’s pretty much it. We promise this one is a piece of cake that’ll up your cooking game easily, so follow along and up your mac & cheese game in a hurry.
[With notes from the editor, who fancies himself the world’s foremost expert on this dish. -Steve Bramucci, Editorial Director, Uproxx LIFE]
First, you need some pasta. I’m using Barilla’s macaroni. It’s a little heftier than the standard boxed mac and cheese. The taste is also a lot less cardboard-y than, say, Annie’s or Kraft.
[Mac and cheese is best with this really thin sort of macaroni, kept al dente. You should be chewing half and swallowing half the noodles whole without realizing. The big fat mac noodles pictured at the top of this page go soft and soggy mysteriously easily. -SB]
Second, you need some good cheese. I’m using a grated Irish sharp cheddar here. It’s orange but not so orange it turns the macaroni into an orange neon glowing heap. Look at it this way, the better the cheese, the better the mac and cheese. I like using a solid sharp cheddar here but you can 100 percent play with that element. Mix it up but stay in the hard cheeses lane.
[Old Croc Extra Sharp and Tillamook Reserve Extra Sharp are both affordable and superb. Lately, I love using Old Amsterdam aged gouda. If you want a mix, try the sharp, the gouda, and another hard, sharp cheese from the fancy cheese counter. Emmental would be a smart pick. -SB]
I’m also using some grated parmesan, unsalted butter, black pepper, sea salt, and nutmeg.