The Best Macaroni and Cheese


100g butter
300g good-quality streaky bacon, cut in 1cm bits
600g macaroni
1 litre full-cream milk
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, chopped
80g cake flour
1ml grated nutmeg
150g strong Cheddar cheese, freshly grated
150g Parmesan, freshly grated salt and freshly ground black pepper
5ml chopped fresh origanum
Probably the most comforting of all comfort foods, the first plate of macaroni and cheese is believed to have been prepared with macaroni brought home by Thomas Jefferson upon returning from Italy. His daughter, Mary Randolph, is credited with inventing the dish using, as I have here, Parmesan in the original recipe.


1.Preheat the oven to 180°C. Use half the butter to grease an ovenproof dish thoroughly.
2.Line an oven tray with baking paper and scatter the bacon bits on top. Place the tray in the hot oven and, keeping an eye on the bacon, crisp it gently. Remove from the oven and set aside (but do not switch off the oven).
3.Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the macaroni. Cook until al dente (make sure not to overcook). Drain and spoon the macaroni into the ovenproof dish.
4.Heat the milk very gently in a small saucepan until it just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat.
5.Melt the rest of the butter in a slightly larger saucepan, add the bay leaves, chopped garlic and flour. Stir for about 2 minutes before gradually adding the warm milk, whisking vigorously until the white sauce is creamy and smooth.
6.Add the nutmeg. Remove the bay leaves from the sauce and stir in the Cheddar cheese with 100g of the Parmesan, until well mixed. Season to taste.
7.Toss the bacon bits with the macaroni, add a sprinkling of origanum, then spoon the creamy cheese sauce over the macaroni. Scatter the remaining Parmesan on top and bake, uncovered, in the oven for about 40 minutes.
8.Remove the bubbling macaroni and cheese from the oven and serve immediately with a green salad and a glass of crisp white wine. So good!

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