If you did a poll, I’m guessing Mac & Cheese would come in #1 on a list of comfort foods.
It has certainly been one of the most requested recipes here at Idiot’s Kitchen. I’m not sure why it took so long to get around to doing a Mac & Cheese post…maybe it was the fact that mac & cheese is everywhere or maybe because when I went Gluten Free last October, I was pretty convinced I was forever to be denied good mac & cheese.
Well, this recipe solves all of those issues. Behold…Martha’s Mac & Cheese (with Claudia’s Gluten Free options!)
Martha – yes, that Martha – certainly knows her mac & cheese. Emphasis on the cheese! My friends Jamie & Patrick told me about this recipe and it does not disappoint. There are a few things I do differently than Martha (gasp! how dare I?) but we’ll cover those as we go.
Here’s what you need:
Macaroni (regular or GF), White Bread (optional to get GF, but personally, I’d skip it), Milk, Flour (GF is fine), Cheddar Cheese (white, orange or both), Gruyere Cheese, Pecorino Romano Cheese, Butter, Nutmeg, Cayenne Pepper, Salt & Pepper.
I am a creamy mac & cheese girl so even if I was not also doing the Gluten Free thing, the bread cubes on the top are a little bit of overkill to me. However, they DO make a glorious presentation and no one at the table had any complaints about them. So, if you are not gluten free, go for the bread cubes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the crust off of 6 slices of good old white bread. Cut the bread into tiny little cubes. Tiny…smaller than croutons.
Cheese! Martha’s recipe uses all white cheddar but I had white & orange. The main thing is to buy a good block of EXTRA SHARP cheddar cheese. I have 2 (8 oz.) blocks which I have grated by hand.
You could buy pre-grated cheese but I will submit that you get better cheese for less money if you buy a block or two and grate it yourself.
Martha’s recipe suggests using Gruyere OR Pecorino Romano Cheese. Well, where one cheese is good, two must be better so I used both.
Grate up 8 ounces of Gruyere (about 2 cups) and 1 cup (about 4 oz.) of Pecorino Romano.
Yes, that’s a lot of cheese, but we are making a lot of macaroni.
Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a microwave or small pan and pour it over the bread cubes. Use your hands to toss the bread in the butter to get a good coating then set the cubes aside.
Here is where Martha did me wrong. She said to use a large skillet to make the sauce. Well, I don’t know about your skillet, but my large skillet was not large enough. This makes a TON of sauce and also a huge mess all over your stove if you are trying to contain it to a skillet. Grab your dutch oven, soup pot, or pasta pot. Something big with high sides. Live and learn.
Using the microwave or a medium pot, gently warm 5½ cups of milk. I used the microwave on high for about 4 minutes. If you use the stove top method, just be sure you don’t scald the milk.
In your large pot, melt the remaining 6 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add ½ cup of flour and stir it in to make a roux. (I used GF flour and it worked just fine.)
When your roux is a nice bubbly paste, slowly add the milk a little at a time and whisk it in to remove any lumps.
This is an odd process but easy once you get the hang of it. Your roux will look like a milky disaster at first and then suddenly come together into an extremely thick paste.
I like to alternate between using a whisk and a wooden spoon to both break up any lumps and also be sure I’m getting every bit off the bottom and sides of the pan.
Add milk slowly and whisk like crazy. Repeat this process and when you get to the end of the 5½ cups milk, you will have a velvety smooth white sauce.
Congratulations! You have just made Béchamel, one of the “Mother Sauces” of French Cooking.
To be sure the sauce is its optimum thickness, you want it to have simmered very gently but not boiled aggressively.
Season your white sauce with ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Feel free to adjust the seasonings to your own taste.
Take the pan off the heat and stir in ¾ of your grated cheese. Martha gives exact proportions for this but to make it simple, put ¾ of the 4 varieties of cheese you have grated INTO the sauce and save the remainder of each kind for the topping.
Stir the cheese into the sauce (even off the heat the cheese will melt nicely) and try not to eat this out of the pan with a spoon.
Bring a big pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook 1 pound of macaroni. You want to UNDER cook the noodles so that they are tender on the outside but still quite firm in the middle when you do a quick bite test.
I have Gluten Free on the left for me and regular old macaroni on the right.
When your noodles have cooked to this tender but firm state – only about 4-5 minutes tops, drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking. Then drain them again, very thoroughly to get as much moisture out as possible.
Stir your noodles into your cheesy sauce.
I think what makes this recipe different and better than others that I’ve tried is that there is a TON of sauce for the noodles. It almost seems like too much sauce at first, but this is the trick to extremely creamy Mac & Cheese.
Grease or butter a 9×13 inch baking dish and pour the Mac & Cheese into the dish. Top with your remaining grated cheese.
Here is my little Gluten Free casserole. All…for…me!!!!!
Top with the butter soaked bread cubes.
Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. My large pan took slightly longer to brown.
I made this for Easter and it was a big hit. I was very happy with my little Gluten Free version and my neighbor tried it and said it was just as good as the regular.
Feel free to experiment with even more varieties of cheese. Next time I’m putting smoked gouda in mine and am wondering how goat cheese fits into this whole situation.
Here’s the recipe – Adapted from Martha Stewart
And for more fun, visit my friend Jen on the Edge’s blog where she compares her monthly calendar to The Martha’s monthly magazine calendar. I’m pretty sure you should call Jen if you need to stencil your driveway or decoupage your chicken coop!