Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Got Lucky

My mother was a fabulous cook. For a number of years she had her own catering business, which she ran with one of her friends. I spent many hours watching my mother cook and bake. Mom was usually moving too fast to teach while she was working, but every once in a while, if you caught her just right, you got lucky! One Saturday morning when I was about twelve, Mom was making her macaroni and cheese, I got lucky.

My mother worked with a practiced ease—this was a dish she could have made blind folded. I stood to the side and watched, fascinated and transfixed. At one point she turned around and looked at me. I began asking questions. Why do you do this? Why do you do it that way? What does it do? How do you know to do this? Why? Why? Why? How? Why? Why? My mother patiently answered every question. This is how and when I learned to make a roux, and Mom’s Famous Macaroni and Cheese.

Notes for this recipe: This is a crowd-sized recipe, but can be halved. The type of cheese really does make a difference. For the best flavor use a high quality extra sharp cheddar. I use Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. This cheese has excellent melting qualities and gives the sauce a velvety rich texture. Do not use low-fat cheese. Use unsalted butter, no substitutes. This is not a difficult dish to make, but does take patience and care.

Mom’s Famous Macaroni and Cheese

2 Tbsp. butter

1 lb. pasta (such as: penne, macaroni, gemelli, cavatappi)

4 oz. unsalted butter

½ c. flour

4 c. milk

1 lb. extra sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1 inch chunks

8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 4 qt. heavy casserole with the 2 Tbsp of butter and set aside. Cook the pasta according to directions on package. Drain, rinse thoroughly and pour into the prepared casserole. Set aside.

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk to form a paste or roux. Add the milk and whisk to combine. Cook the sauce until slightly thickened, stirring frequently. Add the chunks of cheddar and stir them in. Continue to stir until the chunks have melted and are combined into the sauce. Stir continuously, do not allow the sauce to boil or burn.

When the sauce is thickened and velvety pour it over the pasta and sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top. Bake for 1 hour or until the sides are bubbling and the top is a crispy golden brown.


  1. If the weather keeps up the way it's been going, I think this might go on my to-do list. Baked pasta sounds just about right for wet weather.

  2. The best in comfort food! A perfect rainy weather meal.