Macaroni and cheese is an essential element of comfort cooking. For many people, like myself, Kraft Mac and Cheese was a building block of our diets, not only growing up, but into early adult hood when budgets were tight and Kraft was cheap. Kraft Mac and Cheese is velvety smooth, cheesy, delicious, filling, and these days, mostly crap.
Even in the fancier organic mac and cheese boxes there is very little, if any, real cheese included. Even when there is, the ingredients have been processed to such a high degree that they barely resemble food at all. As much as I like the Kraft Mac and Cheese, still, I'm convinced that the packaging actually has more nutritional value than the contents.
Even if it did have real cheese, it doesn't come with pulled pork, and mine does. Making mac and cheese from scratch is easy, takes very little time, and delivers a far superior product. When it's done you can be relatively certain that it contains real food and no monosodium poisonate.
- 16 oz of pasta cooked al dente
- 4 oz to 16 oz pulled pork
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 oz to ∞ of cheese
- Panko bread crumbs
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 350f. Drop your pasta in boiling water and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. I like to use elbow macaroni or shells, but really any small pasta with lots of nooks will work well. Don't be afraid to experiment. When the pasta is done, drain it and toss it into a proper sized baking dish. I'm using a half steam pan.
In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat, but don't let it brown You can really use any pan or skillet, but because we're making a sauce here, I prefer a proper sauce pan, one with gently sloping sides that allows the whisk to get in, and made of a heavy slow and even conductor. I'm using a La Creuset cast iron sauce pan here.
When the sauce is done to your desired consistency, coating the back of a spoon is a common test, lower the heat and pop in the cheese. Add the cheese in a bit at a time, other wise it will be hard to stir in smoothly and it may break or clump. Since you stuck a spoon in it, you might as well taste it. Resist the urge to eat it all. Add salt or pepper as you see fit.
A word about cheese. Use a cheese that is a good melter. I like smoked gouda. Hard cheeses can be used, but will often yield a grainy texture after baking. I like to add a little manchego because I like the flavor. Cheddar is the typical American addition, and works, but it has a tendency to break more often in my opinion and why use cheddar when you can use something as tasty as smoked gouda? It's really a matter of taste though, as is the amount. The more cheese you put in, the cheesier your mac and cheese will be. 4 ounces is about the minimum and 8 ounces is a good place to stop before going crazy.