Hi Everyone! I hope you’re enjoying the late Spring and are ready for summer. Summer means cookouts and backyard parties and what better side dish than homemade macaroni and cheese? Macaroni and cheese is definitely not light and it’s definitely not healthy, but it is delicious and it is comfort food at its finest. It’s one of those foods that you save your calories for and only indulge once in a while, so when you do indulge, make it worth it!
Growing up my mom made a lot of food from scratch, but macaroni and cheese was always something that came in a blue box. I loved it as a kid, but now it tastes completely fake and processed. If I’m going to eat macaroni and cheese from a box, now I opt for organic white shells and cheese. Annie’s Organic makes my favorite one. That’s ok for a quick weeknight side dish with some grilled chicken and steamed veggies, but when you want real macaroni and cheese, you’ve got to make it from scratch.
My recipe for Homemade Macaroni and Cheese includes pancetta, caramelized onions, gruyere, parmigiano-reggiano and extra sharp cheddar cheeses. It’s heaven on a plate. It’s far from ordinary and surprisingly super easy to make. Bring it to an outdoor party at a friend’s house, fire up the grill and invite some friends over and make some with grilled chicken, or just pop some into a bowl and eat it for lunch. Now, if you want to make it without the pancetta, vegetarians can enjoy it, but this is not the dish for vegans. You can also add some extra vitamins by adding extra veggies like broccoli or asparagus. It’s so versatile that you can make it completely your own.
First, let’s talk about pasta. My regular readers know that I like Italian pasta. It’s dense and I like to use a pasta cut that has lines in it so that all of the ingredients can soak into those lines. My favorite cut for macaroni and cheese is Cavatappi pasta.
Boil the pasta to al dente so that it’s a little bit undercooked because it will continue baking in the oven.
I like to use a Dutch Oven when making macaroni and cheese because I can transfer it right to the oven and I only need to use one pan. I start with some pancetta. Pancetta is basically Italian bacon. It’s used in a lot of Italian dishes and it lacks the smoky flavor of traditional bacon. I like to buy it already chopped up to save one step in my cooking process.
Just turn the heat to medium-high and put it directly in the Dutch Oven and sauté until crisp. There is no need to add any additional fat to the pan, the pancetta will render off plenty of fat on its own.
Place on a paper towel to drain off the excess fat. Leave the renderings in the pan and add the chopped onion and sauté until caramelized. They will take a while to cook, but waiting for the caramelization will make them sweet. It’s worth the wait, I promise.
Look at that golden brown goodness! Next, remove the onions from the pan and let them drain on the paper towels with the pancetta.
Now it’s time to make your Béschamel Sauce. Béchamel is a very fancy name, but it’s a very simple sauce. Just take some butter and melt it in the bottom of the pan and add an equal amount of flour and cook together to make a roux, which is simply a thickener. Next, add some whole milk, and whisk it together until thickened and voila, you’ve got a Béchamel sauce. Super simple! Add some dried mustard, salt and pepper and stir well before adding the pancetta, onions and cheeses.
You will know that the Béchamel sauce is ready when it sticks to the back of a spoon. It comes together pretty quickly, but it does need to be properly thickened before you add in the other ingredients.
Let’s talk about cheese. Please, can we talk about cheese? I could just sit down with you with a cup of coffee and talk about cheese for hours. I love cheese and the older I get, the more discerning I get about the types of cheese I want to consume. American cheese? Forget it! Mild cheddar? Why bother? We have a glorious cheese case at the local supermarket and it’s so convenient to get really good quality cheese during my weekly grocery shopping trip, rather than having to go to a specialty cheese store.
For this homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, I’ve chosen Gruyere cheese, which is nutty and melts easily. It’s one of my favorite cheeses in the whole, wide world. I’ve also chosen some extra sharp cheddar cheese. For cheddar cheese, the sharper the better in my opinion, but you can go milder if you like. Finally, some parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Parmigiano-reggiano is genuine, Italian parmesan cheese. Parmesan that is not labeled parmigiano-reggiano may be imitation. You may not even be able to tell the difference, but I can and I like the good stuff!
All of these cheese melt really well and the combination is a little sharp, a little nutty and a lot scrumptious. After everything is combined, just transfer the Dutch oven to the oven to bake for about 20 minutes and you’re done! You can even serve it right out of the Dutch oven. Don’t you just love one pot cooking?
I hope you will give my recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese a try and please come back and leave a comment and let me know how you liked it and snap a photo of the finished product and tag #ketchumkitchen on Social Media. Also, be sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on any new recipes.
Thanks for stopping by where everything is made from the heart!