The Best Mac and Cheese I’ve Ever Had

When I was a kid, my favorite thing to eat was my mom’s macaroni and cheese. I don’t have it very often these days, since it’s pretty darn indulgent. A couple of years ago I asked her for the recipe so I could make it for my birthday. She had stopped making it years before and often opines that she’s no longer “Mother Good Cook,” though I can tell you, even though she has disowned the title, she can still cook mighty good if need be.

The recipe is one of those rote things that doesn’t come from the Food Network; I scribbled it down on a scrap of paper as she dictated it to me.

Here it is:

In a large pot capable of easily holding a pound of pasta (we both use a Le Crueset dutch oven), make a roux using 3 tbs. of butter and 3 tbs. of flour. I melt the butter over medium heat and then whisk in the flour. It shouldn’t get too dark, we’re not making gumbo here.

When it’s nice and bubbly, add a cup of milk (2% is fine) and whisk it in. Now we’ve got a nice white sauce going. Grate in a bit of nutmeg and add kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

Now comes the nostalgic kicker: drop in 8 oz. of Velveeta cheese product (yes, you have to use it for authentic Mom’s Mac and Cheese since in the 60s, cheese was Velveeta). Cut it into cubes first to facilitate uniform melting. Then add 8 oz. of shredded sharp cheddar cheese for a little zing.

When it’s all melted, fold in a pound of cooked pasta. Macaroni is traditional but ziti or penne work well also. It can be served as is or baked in a 350 oven, which is how I like it best. My hand written notes don’t say how long to bake it so I leave that up to you. When the top is nicely browned, it’s done!

Mac and Cheese pre-baking