To most people in the USA, Macaroni Cheese is thought of as a side dish for a main meal, and it’s often made using either a Kraft Macaroni Cheese mix out of a packet, or home made with Velveeta Cheese, which can best be described as a large block of Yellow American Cheese, the same cheese that is used to top hamburgers.
In the UK however, Macaroni Cheese is less likely to be served as a side dish, but more as a meal in it’s own right, and it’s usually also made with real Cheddar cheese.
Many of the Macaroni Cheese dishes that I have experienced in the USA can be described as being a creamy gooey fairly bland mixture, and yet by changing the way that this dish is made, it can become radically different.
When served as a main meal, there are many different things that you can do in order to serve something that doesn’t just look like a bowl of macaroni that is covered in cheese sauce, and here in the UK there are a lot of different possibilities that have been explored..
It Doesn’t Have To Be Just Macaroni Cheese
There really isn’t much that you can do with the macaroni itself, after all pasta is always going to be pasta and will have a pasta taste. However, instead of using the smaller Macaroni, you might opt for the larger Ziti which basically has the same tube like shape, or try using the spiral shaped Rotelle or Rotini.
Choose Your Cheese
Macaroni Cheese works best using a good medium or if you prefer a Strong Cheddar Cheese. In the USA, use either a Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, depending on the taste that you prefer.
If you like a stronger taste, you might try adding a mild Blue Cheese, such as Gorgonzola or Dolcelatte to the mix to make your sauce more interesting.
You might not want to make your sauce wholly of a stronger cheese, but substituting up to 20% of your Cheddar with a cheese that has a stronger flavor will definitely give your boring old macaroni Cheese a more adult appeal.
Making Your Macaroni Cheese
Yes I know making Macaroni Cheese ought to be a simple task, but for those who have only used a packet mix before, I shall explain, so listen carefully…
The following amounts will serve up to 6 people, depending on how hungry you are and your portion sizes. It only takes 5 minutes to prepare everything, and about 20 minutes to cook.
50g (2 oz) butter
1½ tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
750ml (1¼ pints) milk
225g (8 oz) uncooked macaroni
175g (6 oz) grated Cheddar cheese
Although you can buy cheese that has been grated already, it’s not only cheaper to grate your own, but it only takes 5 minutes, and you can then choose from so many different types of cheese, rather than just the ones available pre-grated.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
Then stir in the flour and salt, making sure that the flour has mixed completely and the result should be a thick paste.
Now add the milk and macaroni to the saucepan, and bring it to a boil, stirring to blend in the previously mixed butter and flour.
Once the milk is boiling (be careful not to allow this to boil over – milk has a habit of doing that), reduce the heat, pop on a pan lid, and allow the contents of the pan to simmer for 15 minutes, until the pasta is cooked.
Now add the cheese, and stir until it all melts to create a tasty cheese sauce.
But Don’t Stop Here
At this point you can pour your Macaroni Cheese into a bowl and serve it, but I prefer to take it one stage further.
Try pouring your Macaroni Cheese into a Pyrex bowl, sprinkling some more cheese over the top, and placing it under the grill (broiler) for a few minutes.
This gives it a nice golden brown crust on top, and also helps to bring out the flavor of the cheese.
How About Some Toppings To Make It More Special
After your Macaroni Cheese is ready to serve, why not try sprinkling a little Cayenne Pepper on top to give it a little color and a kick. But be careful not to give it TOO MUCH KICK as Cayenne Pepper can be a little fiery. If you are serving this to guests, check in advance that they can handle the heat!
Alternatively, why not sprinkle some finely chopped Parsley or even Cilantro onto the Macaroni Cheese before serving.
Give Your Macaroni Cheese A Little Something Extra
Macaroni Cheese as you can see doesn’t have to be plain and boring, but there are other things too that you can add to it, to make it more interesting.
When you first start to melt the butter and flour in the saucepan, add a little White or Black Pepper to the mixture to make it a little more spicy, according to taste.
At this point you can if desired add a chopped onion, which will soften and cook nicely, and add a richer flavor to the dish.
After you have stirred in the cheese to make the sauce, take some Hard Boiled Eggs that you have cut into half, and gently stir these into the mixture, or do the same with some chopped pieces of Broccoli.
If you like Tomatoes, slice several of these, and lay them on top of the Macaroni Cheese before sprinkling on a layer of extra cheese, and placing under the grill to brown.
To make that golden crust more tasty, sprinkle on a mixture of grated Cheddar Cheese and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.
Try serving your Macaroni Cheese on a plate with either some florets of steamed Broccoli, or even some Asparagus shoots.
It Doesn’t Have To Be Just A Vegetarian Meal
After making the cheese sauce, try adding some chopped ham to your Macaroni Cheese, or even some chopped pieces of Bacon. I suggest if you are using Bacon to either cut off the fat, or make sure that the fat has been cooked until it’s crispy, otherwise if can make the Macaroni Cheese too greasy.
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you could try adding chunks of Corned Beef to your Macaroni Cheese as well.
The possibilities are endless, don’t you think?
I hope that this has helped to give you some ideas on how to make a meal out of Macaroni Cheese, as well as making it something that both adult and children alike will enjoy.
Whatever you add, Macaroni Cheese is still a good cheap family dish, and one that most people enjoy.
It’s easy to prepare as well, so next time you think Macaroni Cheese, put away that packet, and try making it from scratch.