As you might realize from the above picture, I recently learned that cropping is a good thing.  I always knew it, but never really applied it to my blog.  I digress.

I can’t believe that I have yet to share this recipe with you.  Homemade mac and cheese was something that I started making my sophomore year of college, when I had my first apartment.  It was something that my mom would make all the time, and now I know why.  It’s fairly easy, inexpensive (all you really need are a block of cheese and pasta, usually you have milk, butter, and flour in your pantry), and makes for good leftovers.

In recent years I have experimented with it a bit, trying different cheeses, adding things.  My mom would sometimes put ham steak into it, which I like, but my new favorite is also peas.  Sometimes just regular mac and cheese, sometimes just peas, and if you’re feeling really sassy, BOTH peas and ham steak.

I know that sometimes you might think I’m putting on a front about being a picky eater (ever see any seafood on here?  I didn’t think so), but according to my mom, when I was younger I refused to eat this unless it was yellow.  So she made it with velveeta.  And let me just tell you, velveeta is not cheese.  It’s rarely found with the cheese, because it requires no refrigeration.  Let that one sink in for a minute.  Yes, I will admit that I used to use the stuff on my grilled cheese, but I have since moved on, and love to make them with Muenster cheese, as it melts brilliantly.

Anyway, this is a favorite of both B and I, and who knows, it could be yours too.

Mac and Cheese

3 tb. unsalted butter
3 tb. flour
3 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
various cheeses (cheddar, jack, mozzarella, fontina, whatever you have in your fridge)
bread crumbs
1 lb. cooked pasta (I use wheat pasta)
optional: frozen peas and/or cubed ham steak

Boil your water and cook your pasta according to directions while you are making the cheese sauce.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once butter is melted, whisk in flour and incorporate completely.  Let cook for about a minute.  Add in milk, salt and pepper, and whisk constantly, until sauce comes to a bubble and thickens.  This could take 10-15 minutes.  Don’t rush it and turn the heat up to high, keep over a medium heat.

Once sauce bubbles, congratulations, you have made a bechamel sauce!

Now is when you start adding in cheese.  I don’t ever use a set amount of cheese, I just start dicing and tossing into my sauce.  I also will use shredded cheeses leftover from other meals.  You can basically raid your fridge of any cheese you happen to have, it will not make this mac and cheese bad.  Melt the cheese in the sauce, and taste to see if there is enough cheese flavor to your liking.  If not, add more.  Also season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once cheese has melted, add in frozen peas and cubed ham steak, if using.  Again, put in as much or as little as you like.  I like peas a lot, so I probably add in 1 to 1 1/2 cups.

Mix together with pasta, adding pasta in batches to make sure there is a good ratio of sauce to pasta (you don’t want there to be too little sauce).  Pour into a 9×9 (or 8×8) baking dish and top with breadcrumbs.

Bake at 350 for about 15  minutes, until breadcrumbs are crispy and brown.