2 to 3tablespoonsshredded cheesemix of cheddar, mozzarella and gouda cheese
Cook the elbow pasta as per the instructions on the package till they are al dente. I first heated the water and salt to a vigorous boil and then added the pasta.
Cook them till they are al dente or just cooked. They should not get too soft or mushy or break.
Drain them in a colander or strainer.
Now grease a baking pan with some softened butter. Skip this step if you do not plan to bake the mac n cheese.
Making breadcrumbs topping
In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter or you can melt the butter in a small pan. Then add the breadcrumbs.
With a spoon mix the breadrcumbs with the melted butter very well. Keep aside.
Making cheese sauce
Heat butter in a thick bottomed sauce pan on a low flame. Also preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (390 degrees Fahrenheit).
The butter should heat up well. Then add the all purpose flour.
Using a wired whisk stir the flour quickly as soon as you add it.
Keep on stirring so that no lumps are formed.
The frequent stirring helps the flour to cook evenly.
You will see the flour frothing and bubbling up while stirring.
Saute the flour till you get a nice cooked aroma from the flour and a pale golden color. Don't brown the flour.
Keep the flame to the lowest and then pour the milk in a gentle stream. Pour the milk with one hand and stir the sauce mixture with the other. The milk has to be chilled, so that lumps are not formed. If you use hot or warm milk or milk at room temperature, lumps can be formed.
Do stir frequently while the milk warms and heats up. The sauce would begin to thicken, so do stir often.
When the sauce has thickened well and coats the back of a spoon, switch off the flame.
Keep the saucepan down and wait for a minute. Then add the shredded cheese. I used an equal mix of cheddar, gouda and mozzarella cheese. You can also use just cheddar cheese or processed cheese or your favorite cheese.
Again mix and stir so that the cheese melts.
The cheese has to melt well in the hot bechamel sauce or white sauce. So now what you have is a cheese sauce.
Add the crushed black pepper and a pinch or two of grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder. You can also add a bit of mustard powder.
Add very little salt. About 2 to 3 pinches. Stir again.
Now add the pasta in the cheese sauce.
With a spoon stir and mix very well.
The mac and cheese is done. If you want you can serve it at this step or proceed further to bake it.
Pour the macaroni and cheese in the prepared baking pan.
Top evenly with the breadcrumb and the melted butter mixture.
Now sprinkle the shredded cheese on top.
Sprinkle some crushed black pepper.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius (390 degrees Fahrenheit) for 15 to 20 or till cheese melts. Do keep a check while baking as oven temperatures vary.
Wait for 5 minutes and then serve baked mac and cheese hot.
For the perfect cheese sauce:
Firstly cook the entire sauce right from the beginning on a low flame.
Make the cheese sauce in a thick bottomed pan, so that the flour or milk does not scorch or burn.
Use chilled milk or cold milk for making the sauce so that lumps are not formed.
Be sure to stir the sauce mixture often with a wired whisk or balloon whisk.
If the sauce becomes too thick, then drizzle some hot milk into it to thin it down.
When adding shredded cheese, keep the pan on your workplace and not on the stove top or burner.
Shred your cheese and do not use packaged shredded cheese as they have additional starch on them which can make the sauce gluey or clumpy.
Type of Pasta: You could use pasta types like shell pasta, farfalle, rotini and even penne in the dish. Type of Cheese:The cheese that can be added are cheddar (sharp or white), Monterey jack, gruyere, parmesan, gouda and mozzarella. You can even choose your favorite mix from the above listed cheese.