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Emily and I always look forward to the beginning of the cold weather season, which generally begins sometime in October in Fayetteville. Emily is excited to finally be able to wear tights and turtlenecks while I enjoy being able to once again layer a sweater on top of another sweater. We also enjoy the season because it means we can take more walks around our neighborhood and we can enjoy fresh apples and pears from the farmer’s market.

We also look forward to cold weather because it ushers in comfort food season, which we generally greet with a batch of macaroni and cheese. To be fair, we eat this dish year-round, but it’s always best when the summer heat has dispersed and you only want to eat warm things. As far as comfort foods go, you can’t do much better than macaroni and cheese.

There are some out there who feel the need to make a more sophisticated macaroni and cheese for adults that is far different from the fare that comes out of the blue box, though I personally think that such people should not be acknowledged by society there’s nothing wrong with making a better version of the childhood staple.  Generally, Emily and I make this dish with a more classic flavor using a one-to-one ratio of cheddar and Monterey, but for a more complex – dare we say more adult? – flavor, we’ve combined gouda and fontina to great success.

Melting and whisking cheese

Emily and I enjoy eating this as a main dish, but you could also serve it as an extremely satisfying side. And if you feel any guilt whatsoever about eating it, just think like a Southerner and consider it your vegetable for the day.

macaroni and cheese

stovetop macaroni and cheese

If possible, leave the grated cheese out at room temperature for a couple of hours before making this dish, as it makes it easier to melt into the cheese sauce. If you like a thinner cheese sauce for your macaroni, you can add up to an additional ¼ cup of milk to the recipe. The optional white wine can help prevent the sauce from clumping, though I’ve made successful batches without it.

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 ounces cheddar, grated
  • 8 ounces Monterey, grated
  • 1 ½ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound dry pasta such as elbow macaroni or shells

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente and drain, setting the pot aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add flour and whisk together. Cook the mixture over medium heat for three minutes, whisking every now and then to prevent sticking.

Add milk to the saucepan ¼ cup at a time, whisking each time until no clumps remain. Add white wine and salt and cook for two minutes. Begin adding small handfuls of cheese (about ¼ cup) to the sauce, whisking lightly after each addition. Avoid whisking vigorously. Continue adding small handfuls of cheese to the sauce every minute, whisking lightly after each addition and occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan, until all the cheese has been added. Continue cooking, whisking lightly every now and then, until all the cheese is melted. Reduce heat to low.

Return drained pasta to the large pot. Whisk the cheese sauce once more and pour over the pasta, tossing the pasta in the sauce until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.