I’m crazy about homemade macaroni and cheese. I adore it. Once I start eating mac and cheese, sprinkled with a bit of salt, I don’t ever want to stop.
My favorite macaroni and cheese is always pure and unadorned. The modern twists and 21st-century updates lure me from time to time, but I always go back to the holy trinity: macaroni, cheddar, and milk.
Strangely, I’m still searching for the perfect recipe. I tend to move through mac and cheese phases. For a while, I made the NY Times crusty macaroni and cheese, which is, very simply, a pound of pasta held together with a pound and a half of cheese, with a little bit of milk thrown in. It’s very much like the family recipe made by my mom and my aunt Barbara, and you really can’t go wrong with it, but I eventually wanted to find something a bit creamier.
So I switched to a fussier version of macaroni and cheese with Westphalian ham, lemon zest, and thyme. A nice change of pace, but a flash in the pan.
When I discovered Patricia Wells’ macaroni gratin in The Paris cookbook, I thought I’d found the one. It’s so simple and rich and creamy with a gruyere crust and fresh chives. But I slowly realized that it’s just not quite homey enough to become a staple. I missed the cheddar cheese flavor that dominated all the macaroni and cheeses of my youth.
Next, I fell in love the NY Times creamy macaroni and cheese. It’s so thickly cheesy and robust and it seems to work with whatever cheese you have lying around the house. Alas, the last time I made it, I could sense a slight lessening of its power over me.
I’m not sure where to turn. I’ve tried the popular recipe from Martha Stewart, but that’s not for me. A local restaurant recently published their mac and cheese recipe in a cookbook called Chefs of the Triangle — it calls for three cups of heavy cream and three cups of cheese (Gruyere, Asiago, and cheddar) for a half-pound of pasta. I’m not one for cooking light, but I also don’t own a defibrillator.
It feels like there should be a personal ad designed to address this predicament. “Desperately seeking perfect macaroni and cheese. Prefer shapely cavatappi and classic elbows. Must have at least a 1:1 ratio of pasta to cheese. Open to high-maintenance roux bases and unusual cheese combinations.”
Since I know of no mac and cheese support groups out there, I put my request to you. Send me your recipes for macaroni and cheese! It’s getting cold. We’re all hunkering down for the long winter. I, for one, can’t imagine how I’ll get through the next few months without a delicious, cheesy, go-to recipe for macaroni and cheese. Think of it as a public service. Help?!