NOTE: This recipe has been superceded by version 2 of the cheddar cheese sauce
The mac and cheese experiment started with the classic mac and cheese. From there, I went on to the deluxe boxes. Finally, I tried some pre-made sauce, and refamiliarized myself with Velveeta.
For this final installment, a cheddar cheese sauce, from scratch.
Béchamel is one of the 4 mother sauces (5 if you add hollendaise). Once you have a béchamel, you can add all kinds of things to create other sauces. Different cheeses are common, along with different spices (I promise I'll make an Alfredo sauce later).
A béchamel is a very simple ratio of 1:1:1:
- 1 tbsp butter (fat)
- 1 tbsp flour (starch)
- 1 cup milk (liquid)
The first two parts, the butter and flour, are combined to form a roux. Roux is used as a thickening agent for soups and sauces. The roux forms gluten to do its job. If you're gluten-free, you can use corn starch. You'll need half as much corn starch as you would flour, but you also won't need butter. The specifics of that are up to you.
For our purposes, 2 cups of liquid will create the amount of sauce we need for 16oz of pasta. So, we'll need 2 tbsp of butter, and 2 tbsp of flour.
My cheddar cheese sauce wasn't nearly as smooth as I hoped. I think the liquid needs to be added in one smooth go. It did reach the right thickness and consistency though.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 c. whole milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Once melted, add the flour and let simmer until it lightens slightly. The roux will smell nutty when ready.
Add the milk and whisk to incorporate. Heat slowly, whisking frequently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Continue heating until thickened. Do not boil!
Once thickened, add cheese and melt until smooth (switch to a spoon, because whisks are harder to clean with cheese on them).
It takes a minute or two for the roux to cook. It will get very slightly lighter before getting darker again. When it lightens is when the liquid should be added. Darker roux is used for other sauces.
You can test the thickness of the sauce using the back of a spoon. The sauce should stick a bit.