How to Make Homemade White Cheddar Shells & Cheese
I regret to inform you that I will no longer be buying your little blue boxes. I will no longer partake in your packets of powdered orange cheese-product. There was a time when I thought I loved you, but I have found another. And now, I feel I can never go back…
The Cold, Hard Truth
Macaroni and cheese in the box sucks. It is a terrible excuse for food. It does not matter what flavor it comes in or what shape the pasta is, it is all bad. Maybe we didn’t realize this as kids because this is all we got. Making homemade mac and cheese seemed like such a chore to our parents, and the boxed stuff is so simple… and maybe homemade seems like a chore to you too, so perhaps you have continued this tradition…
The Hot, Gooey Truth
But friends, I am here to urge you to BACK AWAY FROM THE BOX! Homemade mac and cheese is not as hard as you may think. And the extra time is worth every second when you take that first hot, gooey, cheesy bite of pasta perfection. Go ahead, give it a try… I bet you won’t be going back to the box anymore either!
White Cheddar Shells & Cheese
- 8 ounces (about half a box) medium shell shaped pasta
- 3 Tbs butter
- 3 Tbs flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 cups Sharp White Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 cups Mild White Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, boiling for about 1 minute less than the shortest time recommended on the box (approximately 8-9 minutes). Drain pasta and set aside.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan over a medium-low flame. When it is melted and just begins to bubble, add the flour and stir constantly with a metal whisk for 1-2 minutes, being careful not to let the flour burn.
- Add the milk, whisking briskly to incorporate the flour/butter mixture (roux) into the milk so that no lumps form. Whisk in the salt, pepper, mustard and nutmeg. Increase heat to medium, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. As the mixture boils it will thicken to a gravy-like consistency.
- Reduce heat to low and whisk in the shredded cheeses, a little at a time, until you have about a cup of shredded cheese left. Put this to the side.
- Mix together the cooked pasta with the cheese sauce and pour into a greased, 8x8 inch baking dish. Sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining shredded cheese, and place the dish into your pre-heated oven. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Additions and Substitutions
I firmly believe that you must have fun with your mac and cheese. Switch things up by using different pasta shapes and different cheeses. Remember the basic rule that mac and cheese generally tastes best with a combination of sharp and mild cheeses. Of course, even this rule is made to be broken in certain situations: I sometimes make a gorgonzola mac and cheese that is to die for—but when using a cheese this strong you can’t use anywhere near the amount called for in the recipe. Simply add small amounts of the gorgonzola at a time and taste your cheese sauce periodically until you have achieved the right flavor. I like to top gorgonzola mac and cheese with panko breadcrumbs, melted butter and a few extra crumbles of cheese. You can also change up the seasonings by adding in garlic powder, a bit of red pepper, or maybe some adobo. Other ways to create new flavors include mixing in fun additions like sliced hotdogs or fajita-seasoned chicken strips. The sky is the limit!