Mac and cheese is one of those comforting dishes that sometimes you just want to whip up quickly and other times, you want to pour your heart, soul and feelings into, so I’m giving you a choice.
Whilst it’s an American classic, the cooking technique is very French and obviously the pasta itself Italian. It was James Hemings, a slave and cook to Thomas Jefferson who introduced the first iteration of the dish, originally called Macaroni Pie, to America. Having been forced to train in France by Thomas Jefferson to become his personal cook, this is why the recipe is rooted in French techniques.
Serves - Eight people as a side dish
Ingredients - 15
Cooking Time - One hour
Skill Level - Easy
- 1 packet (500g) of macaroni
- 1 small truffle (20g)
- ½ cup of panko breadcrumbs
- 3 cups (400g) of your choice of cheese. I recommend a mix of cheddar, gruyere or comte and parmesan.
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 1 pinch of grated nutmeg
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- ¾ cup of flour
- 3-4 heads of shallots or brown onions, finely chopped
- 125g of butter
- 2 tablespoons of truffle oil, optional if you don’t have fresh truffle
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 4.5 cups (1.25 litres) of milk
- 1 bag of frozen potato gems
- Place your milk, thyme, bay leaves and nutmeg into a pot and heat till warm and cook on low for 10 minutes to infuse the aromatics.
- Whilst your milk and aromatics are steeping, cook your shallots/onions on low in a pan with olive oil, stirring intermittently, and adding your garlic three minutes after.
- Finely grate your cheese whilst it cooks and give your milk a stir too. Allow the onions and garlic to cook for 10 minutes or until golden and caramelised and then set aside in a bowl for later.
- Strain your milk and discard the aromatics.
- Then use the same pot to cook your macaroni.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil, generously salt and cook the pasta til al dente, approx seven minutes.
- Melt your butter in a pan, then add in your flour, a bit at a time quickly whisking into a buttery paste consistency. This is a roux.
- Then whisk in your milk with heat on medium until you get a creamy sauce. This is a bechamel sauce.
- Now add your caramelised onion and garlic into the bechamel. Other than adding a sweetness and lovely flavour to your sauce, the onions will also help remove any lumpiness from your sauce, making it silkier and smoother.
- Slowly whisk in your cheese until smooth and cheesy.
- Add in your macaroni and stir until all are evenly coated and dispersed. If your sauce is getting too thick, loosen it up with some starchy pasta water.
- Drizzle in optional truffle oil as well as shaved truffle. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Now you could stop here and eat as is, but I think it’s better baked. Transfer to a baking dish, sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs, then a layer of grated cheese and then breadcrumbs and then cheese again.
- Place into an oven for 20-30 minutes at 180 degrees celsius or until golden brown.
- The breadcrumbs and cheese will create a crispy, crunchy, golden top but we don’t stop here. Go ahead and shave fresh truffle before you serve and eat.
- To create an optional potato gem topping, cook your gems from frozen for 20 minutes at the same time as you baked the Mac and cheese. Once your mac and cheese is golden, pull it out, sprinkle a layer of cheddar cheese over the top and then place the potato gems on top covering the surface.
- Cook in the oven for another five minutes until the cheese melts and glues the gems onto the mac and cheese.
- Remove from the oven and hit it with one final shower of cheese and truffle. It’s gratuitous, but so is this whole recipe.
Want to see this recipe in action? You can find a full video step-by-step recipe saved in Jessica Nguyen’s highlights here on her Instagram. (Warning: Scrolling Jess' Instagram will result in serious Food Envy.)