This comfort food classic needs a big jug of cheese sauce – but don't be tempted to get it out of a packet. The real thing is surprisingly easy to make form scratch and well worth the effort, as Christian Turner explains.
The leaves are fast falling off the trees, and the few days that aren’t freezing cold are damp and rainy. In other words, it’s comfort food season.
(Serves 8, generously)
For the Béchamel / cheese sauce
- 100g butter
- 10g white peppercorns, whole
- 100g flour
- 3 litre milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small onion
- 250g cheddar, grated
- 250g Comté cheese, grated
- 100ml double cream
For the rest
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 kg macaroni, cooked al dente
- Bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Large pinch black pepper, freshly ground
- Pinch of salt to taste
Add the milk, onion, bay leaf and peppercorn to a saucepan and infuse by bringing it to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
In a separate pan (one large enough to eventually take all the pasta) melt the butter and then add the flour. Stir well until this forms a wet, sandy texture. Ensure there are no lumps.
Strain the infused milk, discarding all the spices/onion and retain just the milk. Add this slowly to the butter and flour, whisking continuously while pouring the hot milk to ensure a smooth and creamy texture.
Cook for ten minutes; then season to taste.
Add the grated cheeses to the warm béchamel and warm gently until the cheeses have amalgamated completely.
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir together gently. Add a touch of the cream if it thickens too much.
Spoon into a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parsley and gratinate by grilling for 3-4 minutes under a hot grill until golden brown.
Finally, place in the over at 170 degrees for 10 minutes.