mac 'n cheese is a very individual recipe. As long as you get the béchamel right, you can go in lots of directions with different cheeses and toppings. I like to fold in some baby leaf spinach. Use your imagination and remember, the more cheese the better !
16 oz. macaroni 5 cups milk (Combination of your choosing: 3 cups buttermilk & 2 cups half-n-half is excellent. Or use 3 cups sweet milk (whole, 2%, skim) & 2 cups half-n-half or any combo you like, even heavy cream.) 1 stick butter 1/2 cup all purpose flour 1 Tbs. dried mustard 2 lbs of cheese, shredded (All cheddar, or a combo of extra sharp & mild, or extra sharp and Gruyere or extra sharp and goat, or what you like best.) Salt & pepper to taste (I like cayenne.) Bread crumbs (panko is good) Some Parmigiana Reggiano cheese, grated A few more pats of butter
Preheat oven to 350. Butter 9 x 11 baking dish.
Cook macaroni as directed on package, but slightly undercooked. You'll be cooking it further when you bake the mac and cheese.
Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour, whisking until well combined, cooking for 2 minutes. Add milk slowly (some people heat the milk before adding it; I don't), whisking it in until smooth, do not boil. Add dried mustard & S&P. Slowly add most of the cheese, bit by bit, whisking smooth and cooking until thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Combine the cheese sauce and the macaroni and pour it into the buttered baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and the grated Parmigiana Reggiano, and then top that with a light layer of panko. Dot with butter. Bake until cheese is golden and bubbly, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your oven. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
I find the only time mine comes out less than delicious, is if I dont make enough sauce and it gets too dry. If you think it's too runny, it's not. I also like to make my crust with some panko. Oh, use some Gruyere.
I like it both ways, creamy and dry, depending on my mood. My grandmothers was dry, my mothers creamy.
Darlas recipe is a good one, pretty much where it should be and then go from there. I like smoked Gouda, Brie, jarlsberg cheese too.
I also vary what noodle. I like the long "hosepipe" macaroni noodles with the hole in them, shells, bowtie and even an orzo noodle.
You can also add drained and rinsed black beans, sliced mushrooms, chopped fresh tomatos, chopped water chestnuts, green onions, browned sausage, chopped parsley, bacon, chunks of ham etc...if you want it a bit different. I also have a bunch of individual casserole dishes so I will make small ones to serve.
With enough lead time before going into the oven, you can get away without any cooking of the pasta before it goes into the oven. Make the bechamel and mix the noodles into it, and just let it sit in the fridge or on the counter for a few hours.
It is simple as hell. Blonde roux made of butter and flour cooked at a low temp so as to not scorch the butter. It takes just a few minutes of cooking as you just want to take away of gummy uncooked flour. After that start adding milk or half and half to it a bit at a time at this time you are trying to stretch it out. It will form lumps as you go that you have to be patient to get them out before adding more dairy into it. A small roux will make a good deal of sauce, but it is time consuming. Once you think that you have enough, start adding the cheese/cheeses(grated or chopped up based upon the cheese choice) to it in the same manner so as to allow it to uniformly melt into the sauce. That should get you through it for now. Stirring is your friend through the whole process, especially the roux. Look into the Pepin book for further teaching if needed.