- 1 pound box small dry pasta (such as elbow macaroni, penne, gemelli, or shells)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk, plus more, if needed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder (you can also substitute yellow mustard)
- 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (or use an equivalent mix of cheeses)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup crisped chopped bacon
- 1/2 cup caramelized onions
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 cup roasted diced butternut squash (1/2-inch dice)
- 1/4 cup minced chives
Classic mac and cheese may be the ultimate comfort food. Here, Pinterest guru Alejandra Ramos suggests serving it two different ways. Stir in all of the toppings or for a DIY option, serve the pasta with the toppings on the side so everyone can just make up his or her own bowl as he or she likes it.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt generously, and cook pasta according to box directions until "al dente." Drain pasta and set aside.
Place a large pot over medium-high heat and melt the butter until foamy. Add the flour and stir in for 1 minute until fully incorporated with the butter. Slowly pour in the milk and stir continuously until the sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika and mustard powder, then stir. Add the cheeses and stir in until completely melted and incorporated. If the sauce seems a bit thick, add in a 1/2 cup or so of milk and stir in completely to thin. Add the cooked pasta and stir in until completely coated.
To serve as a complete dish: stir in all of the toppings and divide into dishes.
To serve as a DIY option: serve the mac n' cheese family style with a selection of toppings, and let family members or guests serve and top their individual bowls as desired.