Macaroni cheese needs no introduction. It’s been in cookbooks in one form or another since the fourteenth century, and it’s been enthusiastically adopted throughout the western world since then.
Our family’s version comes from the one my mother prepared when we were little. I’ve cut down the amount of cheese, and our white sauce is lighter, but otherwise the dish has changed very little. The big innovation (my mum’s) was to go from making the white sauce the old-fashioned way to something that takes only seconds in a blender.
You might notice peas in the photo: I have no idea how peas came into this dish, but they have always been there for us and they’re not going away.
- 4-5 cups of uncooked macaroni (1 small packet)
- 2 tablspoons of soft butter
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 2 cups of milk
- 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
- 1 cup of green peas
- 1 onion
- bacon or ham (as much or little as you want)
- 1 or 2 tomatoes
- Parmesan and mozarella cheeses
- Boil the pasta in heavily salted water until it’s al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Dice the onions and bacon, and fry for about 10 minutes until they are well cooked. Set aside.
- Make the white sauce: Mix the flour, milk and mustard together. You can just toss them all into a blender at once (the easy way). If you don’t have a blender, mix the flour and mustard with a little milk to form a paste, then gradually stir in the rest of the milk to avoid any lumps forming.
- Assemble: Mix the pasta, onions, bacon and white sauce together with the peas and pour into a four-litre casserole dish. Top with thinly sliced tomato, then sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese (to taste) and enough mozarella cheese to cover the top.
- Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes in a 150 degree C oven, or until the sauce has thickened and the cheese is well cooked.
- Serve with salad.
You read this recipe correctly: we do not put cheese in the sauce. You can if you want to, but we’ve found it makes a much lighter dish if you don’t.
You can make the sauce the old-fashioned way: melt some butter in a saucepan, add the flour and mustard, stir to form a thick paste, then slowly stir in the milk and keep it cooking, stirring all the time, until the sauce starts to thicken up. See the directions for vegan white sauce if you need more details about the method.
Your choice of pasta: it should be macaroni, but we so wanted this dish today. Since I had only penne in the cupboard, that’s what we’ve got here.