Make this bubbling, toasted cheese dish in half an hour. An easy, filling, vegetarian supper. This macaroni cheese is really rich and creamy. It uses no eggs, so is fairly cheap to make if feeding the whole family. Leaving out the eggs also means that the cheese sauce does not completely solidify and so provides a fantastic side dish for meat or vegetable based meals.
The best cheese to use for this is fairly strong Cheddar which retains a piquant taste when cooked. For blue cheese fans, half of the Cheddar could be replaced with a mild blue such as Stilton. This would result in a very rich, heady sauce.
Adjust the mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste but try to use some combination of all of these as they compliment the cheese. Wholegrain mustard is delicious in this and also lends a rustic look to the meal but any fairly hot mustard is suitable.
The following recipe makes a hearty meal for two hungry people and this is easy to make in a larger batch by just multiplying the quantities.
Preparing the Ingredients
1. Turn on the oven to a medium – hot setting such as gas mark 7 or 220 degrees.
2. Grate 250g of strong Cheddar and set aside.
3. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and then add 250g of macaroni. Cook this according to the instructions on the packet until it is just done; usually around ten minutes. Then drain and set aside.
Making the Cheese Sauce
1. Make the cheese sauce whilst cooking the macaroni by melting 50g of butter over a low heat. Do this in a heavy based saucepan if possible.
2. Add two heaped desert spoons of plain flour and stir well to combine. Italian 00 flour is particularly good for sauces as it is so fine but any other plain flour works well.
3. Once this has been cooking for a few minutes, slowly add 200ml of milk, stirring continuously. If the milk is added and whisked in steadily then there should be no lumps.
4. Heat the sauce mixture stirring well and if it did go lumpy then use a whisk to break this down. As it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and keep whisking. Within a few minutes the sauce should thicken.
5. Once the sauce is thickening, quickly stir in the grated cheese and a teaspoon of mustard. Season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg; all to taste.
To Bake the Macaroni Cheese
1. Mix the cooked macaroni well with the cheese sauce, making sure that all the pasta is fully coated and pour in to an oven proof dish.
2. Bake the macaroni cheese until the top is toasted golden and the whole dish is bubbling. This usually takes about 10 – 15 minutes but will depend on how large a batch is made. If you doubled or tripled the above quantities then the cooking time may be a little longer.
Serve this dish piping hot and straight from the oven. It is excellent with a salad or with baked tomatoes.
The cheese sauce recipe is also very versatile, making a tasty cauliflower cheese if mixed with cooked cauliflower and baked in the same way.
For a healthier vegetarian meal, cooked vegetables such as peas, mushrooms or peppers could be substituted for some of the macaroni, and wholemeal pasta used rather than the refined variety. Corn pasta would also work well.
For non vegetarians, cooked ham makes a tasty addition to the meal.