Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rachael Ray’s Mac and Cheese—Finally!

Last week the temperature was 100 degrees in Kansas. Today it was in the 70s. A weather front that came through on Sunday brought an autumn feeling to the air. Perfect macaroni and cheese weather!

I am part of a group of food bloggers who are paying tribute to the Gourmet Live list of 50 WomenGame-Changers in the food world. On Fridays we each post a recipe we’ve completed from a woman on the list. (Be sure to check out what my fellow bloggers posted through their links below!)

Last week featured Rachael Ray. It seems most people either love her or hate her. I have to admit, I am more of a fan of her $40 a Day television show than of her 30-Minute Meals. However, I have picked up a couple of recipes from her. I love her Beef Tenderloin Steaks withGorgonzola and her Roasted Baby Potatoes with Rosemary—both of which were from a Christmas-themed show she did in 2003 that I not only made for the holiday, but many times since.  

I did get to interview Rachael once a few years ago. It was a teleconference with other reporters from around the country to promote the release of her Big Orange Book. I was lucky enough to be one of the reporters who actually got to ask her a question. The moderator of the press conference introduced me and the publication I worked for, and Rachael was just delightful. She asked me how things were going in my city (Concord, New Hampshire) and was very thoughtful with her answer. So, from a food writer’s point of view, she is terrific.

As you know, life got in the way of my posting last Friday, so here is my contribution. I make this macaroni and cheddar cheese dish all of the time. What I like most is the fact it's created on the stove top, with the only oven time being a short period under the broiler to brown the cheese on top.

However, I’ve made some adjustment to the recipe since I first printed it off the Food Network's website in 2003. The biggest problem I had with it was the amount of sauce the recipe created for the amount of pasta—it wasn’t enough. When I make the recipe as is, I only use 1/2 a pound of elbow macaroni. One pound is too much, especially after the pasta has time to soak up some of the sauce. If I make an entire pound, I double the recipe.

I also add more cheese, and it’s not all cheddar. I think a cheddar-only sauce is too gritty. However, I remembered once reading a macaroni and cheese recipe in Cooks Illustrated that called for half cheddar and half Monterey jack cheese in the recipe. I tried it with this one, and it works well.  

Macaroni and Cheddar Cheese
Recipe from Rachael Ray,
Makes 4 entrée or 8 side dish servings

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil (1 turn of the pan in a slow stream)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole or 2 percent milk
3 cups shredded white cheddar cheese (I used 2 cups sharp cheddar and 2 cups Monterey jack cheese, saving 1 cup for the top)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground or freshly grated (I used 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated, and it was almost too strong for my tastes—so do this to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked 8 minutes or to al dente, with a little bite to it (Okay, this is were Rachel and I differ greatly—I would only use 1/2 pound of macaroni to fit the amount of sauce this recipe makes. For 1 pound, I’d double the sauce recipe.)

Heat a medium, deep skillet over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When butter melts into the oil, add flour and combine. Gently cook, whisking flour and butter together, until smooth and flour has had a chance to cook, about 3 minutes. Slowly add milk while continuing to whisk. Gently bring milk to a bubble while stirring frequently. Allow the milk to thicken a bit, then stir in 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese a handful at a time. Season sauce with nutmeg and cayenne. Taste and add a little salt, if you like. Add cooked pasta to sauce and coat completely by turning over and over in the cheese sauce. Transfer to a baking dish and tip with remaining cheese. Place baking dish under a hot broiler and brown the cheddar cheese on top..

Here are my fellow food blogers:

Val - More ThanBurnt Toast
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette - Healthy Living
April - Abby Sweets
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Kathleen -Bake Away with Me
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue - The View from Great Island
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds
Amy - Beloved Green
Jeanette - Healthy Living
Linda - Ciao Chow Linda


  1. Linda, I am happy that you were able to post! I know that life always tries to make us do things and we just have to adjust :) This was a wonderful post, I love your personal story about meeting Rachael. I personally do like her. I agree with you - most mac recipes I come across always include too much pasta. The sauce is wonderful and by the time the mac gets a hold of it, it is all soaked up! Well done.

  2. Macaroni and cheese is my favourite comfort food. I have my tried and true recipe but could be swayed by this recipe.