Mac ‘n’ Cheese is a great blank canvas, hence why a Mac n Cheese bar is so popular at festivals and other pop up events these days. Master the basics, then you can start sprinkling on interesting toppings. The only advice I’d give is that ‘crunchy’ should probably be the focus. Dried onion crisps, crumbled slow grilled streaky bacon, or breadcrumbs toasted with herbs or nuts all work brilliantly – but then so does a hulking great dollop of pulled pork, so the world is your lobster (which coincidentally is also fantastic in a mac and cheese!).
The basic recipe is easy, just try to avoid those crappy small macaroni tubes that supermarket’s seem to stock. If you can’t find ‘elbow’ macaroni, then try to pick a bendy tube based shape that’s as close as possible. This from Tesco is what I like.
The below will make loads – it’s based on an entire packet of macaroni. I have deliberately not included measures for some things below – you know what the final outcome should be like, so put as much in as you judge is needed, season, taste, add more cheese!
- Cut the garlic in half across the cloves, drizzle with oil, then wrap tightly in tin foil and roast in a medium oven for half hour or so
- Boil your pasta in salty water for 5 mins or so, until it is al dente, when ready drain the water, rinse and stir in a large slug of olive oil to stop it sticking.
- Melt 50g of butter in a pan and add about the same in flour, mix and cook out the flour in this roux for a couple of minutes
- Add a splash of milk, cook and stir to make a paste, continue to add the milk bit by bit, stirring and making a thick sauce.
- Add the cheddar and secondary cheese, nutmeg, spices and the mushed garlic from one of the roasted halves.
- Fry the pancetta cubes or diced bacon in a separate pan, then add this to the sauce
- Now, add as much pasta into the sauce as is needed to maintain a generous ratio of sauce to pasta. Season heavily with lots of cracked pepper and stir until well mixed.
- Remove from the heat and mix in half the tub of cream cheese, a few dashes of Worcester sauce, a teaspoon of mustard and half a tub of sour cream.
At this point you may want to dish into smaller containers, grate over some parmesan and grill on a high heat until the top starts bubbling. Alternatively, mix said parmesan with some panko breadcrumbs for a more ‘gratin’ style topping, but take it on first hand experience – don’t grill breadcrumbs on high!!!