This is one of the best side dish recipe's my mom passed down to me. It's great anytime of year, it's a little heartier than traditional mac and cheese, not to mention, once you make this once, it's so easy, you'll definitely want to make it again and again. If you're like me, you might even make it an entree once in a while to save yourself a bit of extra work ;) I hope you enjoy my mom's twist on mac and cheese.
Homemade Mac & Cheese
1 lb. box of medium sized shell pasta
3 cups milk (divided)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp. salt (I don't measure, so this is totally a guess. I may use a little more or less, that's where your taste testing skills come in =)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp corn starch
3 cups shredded cheddar jack cheese (divided)
2 cups shredded milk cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water. To it add oil and salt generously. (Some people avoid salt, but when cooking pasta, this is one step you don't want to cheat through. In fact I usually add about 3 Tbsp. Adding salt to your water is your only opportunity to directly flavor the pasta itself. This is one step that adds a lot of flavor in the end and can make all the difference in the world.)
Place on the stove top on high and bring the water to a rolling boil. Add pasta to boiling water and cook for approximately 10 - 12 minutes or until al dente. (It's very important that you don't overcook the pasta because your going to continue cooking it later in the oven. If you over cook it, it won't hold up as well, and may become mushy.)
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat. Once melted, add 2 1/2 cups of milk (reserving 1/2 cup), salt, and pepper. Cook until it comes to a light simmer, stirring constantly. In a seperate measuring cup whisk together remaining 1/2 cup of milk and corn starch. It will be thick but should come together pretty quickly once you begin whisking. Once it's completely dissolved, add cornstarch mixture to warmed milk and continue stirring constantly. (Once you add the cornstarch, the milk should thicken in a matter of minutes. Don't raise the heat unless it doesn't thicken until after 5 minutes or so and don't walk away!!!! I've experienced on a number of occasions, the milk will come to a simmer and then boil over if I don't constantly watch and stir - be patient =) Once it comes to a nice thick cream sauce, remove from heat and set aside. (A good test of whether or not it's thickening properly is by dipping the back of a silver spoon in the cream and then pulling it out. As the cream drips off, it should leave a nice thick coat on the back of the spoon. If it doesn't and simply drips right off, keep cooking and keep stirring=)
Place cooked pasta in a large pyrex dish. Pour hot sauce all over the top and mix it into noodles so that noodles are evenly coated. Next spread 2 cups of both cheeses (reserving one cup of the chedd/jack) over noodles and mix well. Spread out mixture evenly with spoon and then sprinkle remaining cup of cheese over the top.
Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until cheese is completely melted and bubbly around the edges. Serve warm and enjoy!
Serves 6 as an entree; 10 as a side