When it comes to (savory) comfort foods, nothing holds a candle to pasta and melted cheese — in any form, really (hello, ziti), but especially traditional macaroni and cheese.
Deb Perelman, the voice and hands behind Smitten Kitchen, would know. Her “comfort food stepped up a bit” recipes, paired with her lighthearted, always honest commentary, have made the Smitten Kitchen website and cookbooks accessible, go-to resources for countless home cooks over the years — and especially now, when the craving for comforting, approachable, eminently doable cooking feels stronger than ever.
So Perelman walked us through her so-called quick, essential stovetop mac and cheese (a fan favorite) on Instagram Live as part of the Eater @ Home virtual event series. While the recipe originally appeared on SmittenKitchen.com and can be found there (and below!), anyone who’s cooked knows that it’s the ineffable tips and tweaks, learned from putting a recipe into action, that can make all the difference. So watch Perelman, then check out the recipe for yourself.
Quick, Essential Stovetop Mac-and-Cheese
Time: 15 minutes
4 ounces (115 grams) dried pasta, such as macaroni or another small twisty shape
2 teaspoons (10 grams) salted or unsalted butter
2 teaspoons (6 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 ml) low-fat or whole milk
Many grinds of black pepper
1/2 cup (1 ounce or 30 grams) finely grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
Bring a small-to-medium pot of very well-salted water to a boil and add your dried pasta. Cook it until firm tender, then drain. Return pot to stove and melt butter in the bottom. Using a spoon or whisk, add flour and mix until it disappears. Add milk, a tiny splash at a time, stirring constantly so no lumps form. Season with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and many grinds of black pepper. Bring sauce to a simmer. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese until combined. Add drained pasta, stir to evenly coat. Scoop into a bowl (okay, I won’t tell anyone if you don’t) and finish it with more black pepper, if you wish. Repeat as needed.