This is Mac ‘n’ Cheese like your mom used to make. Or should have made. I grew up on ultra-creamy, homemade macaroni and cheese, and I have such fond memories of sitting down to a steaming hot bowl, my mouth-watering, trying not to burn my tongue on the delicious pasta. My grandma would always show me how to skim a few noodles off the edges of the bowl with my spoon, those being the coolest. It’s funny the things we remember, and the things we forget but as I became and adult, a key ingredient in the recipe became a point of contention. The cheese. Was it, or wasn’t it — cheese? You see, if you were a child growing up in America in the ’80s, you were likely fed a diet that included at least some Velveeta “cheese.” It was the only way to get me to eat the asparagus that my mom had just picked from alongside the country road we lived on. Don’t even get me started on what is WRONG with that picture (child needs nasty processed goo melted over wild, fresh asparagus just harvested an hour or so before in order to consume said asparagus). Anyway, let’s just say much of the USA had a coming-of-age in home kitchens, and Velveeta slowly, er … uh … melted away.
But I missed my mac ‘n’ cheese, and no homemade version made with cheddar or any other natural cheese compared to that forbidden (by me) pleasure from days gone by. Now married and living in Munich, I found myself surrounded by cheese foreign to me (quite literally). It was my own private culinary adventure every time I went shopping, always centered on cheese. I dare not even begin to expound on the life-changing cheeses I tried and loved while living in that wondrous city, but it was the simplest one that changed the way I make mac ‘n’ cheese forevermore. Butterkäse. I found it, most often, sliced and arranged with a selection of cured meats, and freshly baked breads, served for breakfast. And that’s how we enjoyed it while living in Germany, but upon our return to Colorado, I was startled and thrilled to find it regularly stocked at our average-run-of-the-mill grocery store down the road, sold in small blocks. Its creamy texture and mild taste seemed like it might make great cheese sauce, and that turned out to be an understatement. It was made to star in mac ‘n’ cheese! It’s a huge hit with my girls, and all of their friends, and the parents of their friends, and … you get the idea.
If you haven’t made mac ‘n’ cheese at home, do NOT be intimidated. It takes 15-20 minutes total, requires just a few basic ingredients, and makes all boxed mac ‘n’ cheeses pale in comparison. I get so many requests by friends and family for the recipe that I decided that the best thing to do is to share it with you all! A childhood classic, and an adult favorite. I must admit, I’ve grown to adore käsespätzle as the more grown-up original version of this comfort food, but if you are looking for something delicious and quick, this is for you.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese
by Stephanie Kunstle
Note: Serves four small children. The recipe can be doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled for more “kids” or a quick treat for unexpected guests!
- 1 c. dried macaroni noodles
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 c. whole milk
- 1 Tbsp. unbleached flour
- 2 pinches sea salt
- 1 c. shredded Butterkäse
- Fill a medium-sized pot with water 3/4 full, and bring to a boil. Gradually add about a teaspoon of sea salt (with caution- it will bubble wildly if you do it all at once) and then add macaroni noodles and cook until al dente.
- While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan over medium flame.
- Whisk the flour into the measured milk until smooth, and then add to the melted butter.
- Stir with whisk nearly constantly to prevent burning or lumps. The milk mixture will begin to thicken. Add the shredded cheese and pinches of sea salt, and turn flame to low. Whisk until cheese is melted in and sauce is smooth.
- Drain noodles, and add to the saucepan full of cheesesauce, mixing well.
- Serve hot to hungry children ages 1 to 100 and enjoy!