The title of this recipe is such because I can honestly say I have never in my life bought a packet of macaroni. So this recipe has only ever been made with fusilli or penne. Since having children, I always use wholewheat fusilli and there is really no difference between this and ordinary pasta. But you can pretty much use any pasta you like.
This is the very first recipe I ever attempted on my own. My mum is a wonderful, hearty home cook and when I was young, the kitchen was very much her domain so opportunities to cook for myself were scarce. She worked nine-to-five and my dad worked shifts that often meant, come the school holidays, he would emerge from his murky pit ravenously hungry at strange times of the day. He’d eat weird stuff like mahoosive serving bowls of cereal or entire packets of jumbo rice cakes. My mum had a tiny cupboard in the kitchen stuffed full of slightly crusty-round-the-edges 1970s cookbooks, so one day I pulled one out, found a recipe for macaroni cheese and made it for my dad. I remember hovering over the pans, checking the recipe every ten seconds, fretting and fussing. What if I destroy my mum’s pans? What if it’s a disaster? What if I’ve got all the weights wrong? But it worked! And he liked it! He said it was better than the pasta my mum made! This was my first experience of the utter pleasure to be had from other people enjoying my cooking.
My version has been tweaked a thousand times since my first attempt in my early teens. I know it by heart and often chop and change what I add to it but the basic recipe is still much the same.
½ pint milk
6oz strong cheddar, grated
1tsp English mustard
Pinch of pepper
Stick the oven on to pre-heat at 200 degrees. Boil the kettle and pour it straight into a pan to cook the pasta. While the pasta is bubbling, get a larger pan and melt the butter on a medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and combine to make a dough. It won’t look pretty but squidge it around the pan a bit for a few seconds to cook.
Gradually add the milk, each time combining it with the dough. Use a whisk if need be but keep working it so it has as few lumps as possible. Once it’s all combined, keep stirring it until it’s smooth and starts to thicken up.
Check your pasta. You do not want it to be fully cooked or it’ll end up pappy later on. At this point you can add peas, broccoli or cauliflower to the pan for the last few minutes of cooking if you feel like it.
When the sauce has thickened up sufficiently and you see one or two bubbles popping on the surface, remove it from the heat and add nearly all of the cheese.
Keep some back for sprinkling on top. Stir it in until melted, then add the mustard and pepper. You don’t need any salt, as the cheese is already quite salty. At this stage, you could add some pre-cooked ham or bacon or some fried mushrooms. Or not. Up to you.
Drain the pasta/veg and tip into the pan with the cheese sauce. Give it a good stir and transfer the whole lot to an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheddar and some parmesan for extra crunchy bits. A little cayenne pepper on top or some slices of tomato are special if you’re feeling a bit fancypants.
Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes or until the top is all crispy and scrumptious. Serve with garlic bread or a side salad. It will be a gazillion degrees when it comes out of the oven but it’s well worth burning your tongue on account of it’s amazing tastiness.