Mac and cheese is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods. Sometimes I’ll make Kraft Dinner, but let’s be honest, it’s just not the same as a nice homemade mac and cheese. The main difference is of course the sauce. When you do it yourself it’s so much thicker, creamier, cheesier… and less fluorescent.
I add cubes of cooked ham to turn this from a side dish into a main. And with Easter just around the corner, you may soon find yourself with some leftover ham. I may be biased, but I’d say this recipe would be a great way to use up some Easter leftovers.
On another note, how is it seriously Easter already?! I could have sworn it was just Halloween. Or at least Christmas. That’s one of the things I don’t like about getting older, it seems like every year time just keeps flying by faster and faster. I think about all the things I want to do in the year, all the blog posts I want to make, and I’m suddenly like how the heck has 3 months of 2016 passed already!
Although, on the plus side, most of the snow has now melted and that means it’s biking season. I took my road bike out for its first spin of the year yesterday and it was great. Now I will wait (im)patiently for the mountain bike trails to dry out too.
But, I digress…
This recipe is really not that hard. Making cheese sauce is surprisingly easier than you might think. The key is to keep whisking it to keep it smooth and make sure it doesn’t burn. But that’s about as tricky as it gets.
It’s important to use an old/sharp cheddar so you get the intensity of the cheese flavour to come through. I also use a little Dijon mustard and fresh thyme to season the sauce. They’re flavours that really go well with the ham. But if you want a more basic sauce, you can omit them.
- 1 box (375 g) dry macaroni
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ flour
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 2 cups grated old cheddar cheese (grate it yourself, don't buy the pre-grated stuff!)
- 2½ cups cubed cooked ham
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk constantly for about 2 minutes.
- Pour in the milk while still whisking. Cook until thick, approximately 5 minutes. Keep whisking to ensure sauce is smooth and doesn't burn. (See notes)
- Reduce heat to low. Add Dijon and chopped thyme, whisking to combine.
- Add grated cheese and whisk until cheese has completely melted and combined with sauce base.
- Add ham, cooked macaroni and pepper. Stir until combined.
- Salt to taste. (See notes)
- Serve immediately.
You may find you don't need much salt, as the ham will provide some.