Mac and Cheese is often made with a bechamel/white sauce -butter, flour, milk. It’s good eating but it can get cloying rich after a while. This recipe is an alternative to a flour based sauce. I use evaporated milk which means a quicker, lighter sauce and an always smooth sauce with not ‘graininess’.

Having reservations? Cook’s Illustrated, shares the same idea as I do. The editors, their team of chefs, food scientists and tasters had tested and retested recipes for Mac And Cheese and then developed a recipe that uses evaporated milk as well. Why stand over a hot stove stirring away to make a roux (stirring flour into melted butter) and then a sauce (adding milk and cheese gradually) if you don’t have to?

If you do not cook the roux far enough, the sauce will taste raw and there is that fear of the sauce becoming grainy because of that or because you added the cheese into a sauce that was too hot, too quickly or … Why bother with the hassle and unpredictability? Using evaporated milk will help prevent these issues and the Mac And Cheese will still taste like Mac And Cheese, and a good one too. There will be no gritty texture, raw taste and no, it will not be sweet or taste like dessert. The bonus? It is way quicker to prepare and put on the table!

Quick Mac And Cheese

Prep: ~10 minutes 
Cook: ~10 minutes
Inactive:
Level: Easy
Serves: ~2 
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Keeps refrigerated up to 2 days.

Ingredients

1 cup =250ml =8.45 US fl oz

For the macaroni
4 oz (113g) macaroni
6 cups (1.5 litres) water
1 teaspoon salt
For the sauce
4 oz (113g) grated sharp cheddar*
1 oz (28g) grated Parmesan**
5/8 cup (147ml) evaporated milk
1 large egg lightly beaten (1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon mustard (either powdered or paste)
Hot sauce/chilli powder to taste
For the topping (optional)
2 Tablespoons (1oz)(28g) butter
1/4 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)/ordinary bread crumbs
* Use sharp cheddar as it provides a more definitive flavour. The taste of regular cheddar gets lost once it is mixed in with the evaporated milk.  Not all cheeses melt well. Refer to ‘Tip’ section below to find out more and a few suggestions.
** Grate it finely and do not use too much Parmesan. It will be hard to melt it in and become grainy. Omit and use all cheddar if you like.


Method

1. In a pot and on high heat, bring the water to boil.
2. Meanwhile, combine in a bowl, the cheeses (reserve 1 Tablespoon), evaporated milk (reserve 1 Tablespoon), egg, mustard, hot sauce/chilli powder and black pepper. Set aside.
3. When the water comes to a boil, add the salt and bring it back to a boil. Once it comes back to a boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente (there is still a bite to it). This should take ~10 minutes. It is best to refer to cooking times indicated on the back of the pasta packaging. Stir the pasta once or twice during the cooking process to prevent sticking. Try a bite of the pasta. Once it is al dente, drain into a colander sitting on a basin. Keep 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
4. While pasta is cooking, in a frying pan where you will be making the sauce, add butter. Set the saucepan over a burner and melt butter on medium high heat. Stir in the Panko/bread crumbs and continue to stir until it turns golden brown. It should take 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the burner. Remove the frying pan and transfer the golden crumbs onto a plate.

5. Return the frying pan to the burner.
6. When the pasta is ready, turn on the burner  to medium. Add the drained pasta to it. Then, add the mixture of milk, cheese, egg, mustard, hot sauce/chilli powder and black pepper. Stir and do not stop stirring.
7. After ~5 minutes or as soon as the cheese has melted (do not boil), stir in the reserved 1 Tablespoon of cheese and evaporated milk. Immediately turn off and remove the frying pan from the burner. Continue to stir to melt the cheese. This helps diffuse the heat and prevent eggs from scrambling. You just need to heat the sauce through.
8. If it looks too thick, dilute with enough of the 1 cup pasta cooking water you had set aside earlier.
9. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately. Remember to scatter the Panko/bread crumbs over the Mac And Cheese.

Tips

(1) To help produce a smooth sauce
1. Use grated cheese.Do not use too much parmesan.
2. Keep the temperature at not higher than medium. Cheese dislikes high temperatures and will seize and turn into little gritty globs.
3. As soon as the cheese melts, add that last 1 Tablespoon of cheese and evaporated milk and remove frying pan from burner.
4. Stir. This diffuses the heat and prevents the cheese from clumping and eggs from scrambling.

(2) Some cheeses that melt well
(Keep in mind the flavour of the cheese sauce that you have in mind when selecting cheese).

Gouda, Emmenthal/Swiss cheese, Muenster, Asiago, Fontina, Gruyere, Blue cheeses, Cheddar, Brie, Camembert or another soft rind cheese. Remove rind before melting.

(3) Some cheeses that are difficult to melt
Hard cheeses like parmesan have to be grated finely and used in much lesser ratios with a cheese that melts easily. Use too much and it will be gritty sauce for you.

(5) Some cheeses that won’t melt well no matter how hard you try
Mozzarella, provolone, stringy cheeses and the like as they would pretty much refuse to cooperate with the sauce and keep its sinewy appearance and texture. Halloumi, Ricotta, Cottage Cheese, Paneer (Indian cheese), Feta. These are definitely not meant for smooth sauces.

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