As a professional chef, I know the best tips for making the perfect batch of mac and cheese.
Pick a pasta that has ridges or curves to hold onto the sauce and boil it until it's al dente.
Make a sauce from scratch by starting with a roux, then slowly adding freshly grated cheese.
Although boxed options can get the job done, mac and cheese is shockingly easy to make at home.
It's also a dish you can experiment with and adjust to your liking by selecting your favorite cheese or adding toppings.
And as a professional chef, I know the best simple tips for making a great batch of mac and cheese in your own kitchen.
Pick your favorite pasta shape
Even though macaroni and cheese derives its name from the elbow-shaped pasta, you can make it with a variety of noodles.
Shells, cavatappi, farfalle, gemelli, and even pipette rigate can easily be tossed and coated in cheese sauce.
Ridges, cavities, and curves are ideal for holding onto the sauce, so avoid straight pasta, like spaghetti or fettuccine.
Cook the noodles until they're al dente
Your mac and cheese shouldn't be mushy, so make sure to leave room for the pasta to cook more.
Boil the pasta until it's al dente, the point where it's cooked but retains a slightly firm interior. Since the best mac and cheese is baked, the noodles will continue to soften in the oven and absorb the cheese sauce.
Mix and match cheeses for extra flavor
One benefit to making the meal at home is choosing what cheeses to include.
Look for cheeses that have a little extra flavor and melt exceptionally well, like a semi-firm block of mozzarella or cheddar. Avoid options with a high water content, like buffalo mozzarella or burrata, since they can make the sauce runny and clumpy.
Add a handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano Romano, or Asiago for an extra-flavorful kick.
Grate your cheese by hand
Grating a block of cheese just before mixing it in is the way to go since prepackaged, shredded options often contain additives to keep the pieces separated.
Shred the cheese no more than a few days ahead of time for best results — the ingredient retains more moisture as a block.
Make the sauce from scratch
Making a roux (a cooked mixture of flour and fat used to thicken sauces) may sound complicated but it's actually very simple.
Using your favorite recipe, simply brown flour in melted butter over low heat. This toasting process is necessary since it essentially cooks the flour and takes away any raw taste.
Then continue making your béchamel by adding warmed milk and whisking vigorously.
Let the sauce simmer while still whisking to keep the bottom from sticking until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Don't add all of the cheese at once
Since the milk solids in the cheese can separate during the melting process and get grainy, add the ingredient slowly.
Add your grated cheese in small increments and stir in between each round to ensure a creamy sauce.
Carefully adjust your seasonings after you mix everything together
Once your noodles are drained and you've set 1/2 cup of pasta water aside, it's time to mix everything together.
Pour the hot pasta into the cheese sauce and stir, then taste, season, and adjust. Add the pasta water as needed to thin the sauce before transferring it to your baking dish.
Some water from the sauce will absorb into the pasta as it bakes, so don't add too much salt.
Always bake your mac and cheese
Nothing can quite compare to the delicious crispy edges and gooey center of baked mac and cheese.
Cover your dish with foil for the first 20 to 30 minutes, then let it bake uncovered in the oven until it's ready.
Get creative with your toppings and add-ins
Mac and cheese should be deliciously creamy and gooey, but you can introduce textural variety by adding a little crunch on top.
Seasoned breadcrumbs and crushed crackers work particularly well. Just toss them in a bit of olive oil or butter and sprinkle them on top for the last five to 10 minutes in the oven.
You can also draw inspiration from cacio e pepe and finish of your dish with grated pepper and extra cheese or even stir in crispy pancetta or cauliflower bits. The options are endless.
Read the original article on Insider