To make baked macaroni, you first have to make a very useful white sauce called béchamel (pronounced “bay-sha-mel”). To make it, you start by cooking a combination of butter and flour known as a roux (pronounced “roo”). Once you have learnt how to make béchamel sauce, you can use it in many other dishes, like lasagna. This sauce tastes quite plain to start with, so in this recipe, flavor is added with cheese.
Recipe from The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes (Phaidon Press, 2009, $19.95) www.phaidon.com
|4 tablespoons unsalted butter||2 3/4 cups macaroni pasta|
|1/2 cup all-purpose flour||1 ounce Parmesan cheese|
|1 1/4 cups whole milk||1 ounce Cheddar cheese|
|Freshly ground black pepper|
Start by grating the Parmesan and Cheddar cheeses carefully, making sure that your fingers stay well away from the grater. Set these aside as you will use them later in the recipe.
Now make the sauce. Put the butter in a small pan and melt over gentle heat. You don’t want to overheat the butter or let it brown, as this will affect the color and flavor of the sauce.
As soon as the butter has melted, add the flour and cook the mixture over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to make a smooth glossy paste – this is your roux.
Take off the heat, add about 4 tablespoons of milk, and stir until the milk is completely mixed in. The mixture will go very thick, so stir until its smooth.
Put back on low heat, add a little more milk, and stir again. Continue to add milk a little at a time until you have added half of the milk.
Swap your wooden spoon for a whisk and continue to add the rest of the milk. You can add more at a time now, as long as you keep whisking to help prevent the sauce from going lumpy.
Keep the pan on low heat and let the sauce cook very gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cooks. You’ll know it’s ready when the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of your wooden spoon.
Turn on the oven to 400F. Then bring a large pan of water to boil and cook the macaroni.* You will need to ask an adult to help you drain the macaroni and tip it back into the empty pan.
Add the Parmesan and Cheddar to the béchamel sauce and season with a little freshly ground black pepper.
Ladle, spoon or pour half of the béchamel sauce over the pasta and use a wooden spoon to mix the pasta and sauce together.
Spoon the pasta into an overproof dish about 10 inches square (or you can use any ovenproof dish you have). Spoon the remaining béchamel sauce over the top of the pasta. If you have a ladle, you might find it easier to use this.
Put the ovenproof dish onto a baking tray. Wearing your oven mitts, put it into the oven and cook for 20 minutes until it is golden brown and bubbling. Serve with salad or cooked greens.
How to Cook Dried Pasta
Fill the biggest pan you can find three-quarters full with cold water. You will need an adult to help you carry it to the stove. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
Carefully, add the pasta and stir well. Stir occasionally with a long handled spoon to prevent it from sticking. Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than it recommends on the pack, as it’s always better that the pasta is slightly undercooked rather than overcooked and soggy. Use a fork to take a piece of pasta from the pan, leave to cool slightly and then test to see if it is ready—it should be cooked but still have a little “bite.”
You will need an adult to help you drain the pasta in a colander. Serve the pasta immediately, with the sauce of your choice.
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