There comes a time in every young student’s life when she finds herself thinking, “Maybe there’s more to life than Easy Mac.” Perhaps you find yourself concerned that real cheese does not normally come in day-glo orange, dressed for the 80’s party in your microwave. Perhaps you have started to notice the strange cheese powder popping up in places it shouldn’t, like your desk, or the crevices of your laptop. Perhaps you are worried about scurvy.
However, this coming of age doesn’t mean you’ll be leaving your pasta ways behind you! Oh no, you are still a young adult with the metabolism of an Olympian (chess is a sport), it’s just time for a more grown-up and delicious incarnation. Plus, pasta dishes are easy to make and sauces store well, and a great way to trick yourself into eating vegetables for those among us who may need tricking.
Although many pasta sauces are easy to make, it can be surprisingly difficult to find a recipe you like. Part of this, in my own experience, is that the culinary awakening that leads you to take those first tentative steps into the kitchen and cook something “simple” will inevitably lead you to another moment of self-discovery: always, always, always read the recipes. Carefully. Sure, there’s the part of your brain that will be like, “I know how food works, don’t worry, I got this.” Pay it no heed, it is also the part of your brain that told you it was okay to eat macaroni and cheese shaped like dinosaurs for the first year of college. It is the part of your brain that will tell you that two bitter ingredients (gorgonzola and arugula) “probably cancel each other out” when mixed in with pasta. It is the part that will convince you to skim over the mechanics of making a roux, leaving you with a sad saucepan of milky cheese flakes.
To guard you against this sad fate, I present a meticulously over-explained recipe for a simple cheese sauce for all your basic pasta needs—bake it with macaroni, mix it in with steamed spinach, or even get all fancy with capers, chicken, and a squeeze of lemon juice. This sauce has your back.
Chloe was recently a student of Williams College, and her recent graduation has in no way diminished her cheese consumption. Read more…
If you’re making mac ‘n cheese, you’ll want to boil water and cook ½ pound of pasta while you’re making the sauce.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups whole milk
2 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat until frothy.
Remove the saucepan from heat and sprinkle in the flour.
Return to heat and whisk flour into the melted butter. It’s roux-makin’ time!
Keep the heat low and keep whisking. Seriously, this will take longer than you think. How long, you say? Long enough for the mixture to start to thicken. After a while, you will notice the color start to darken to a light, perhaps even chocolatey brown.
Very slowly pour the milk into the saucepan. The reaction will be exciting at first, but do not let this distract you from your primary task: whisking it in. The exact time this takes will very depending on your stove and saucepan, but you will feel the mixture start to get thicker once all the milk has been added.
Add cheese to the now creamy mixture, stir until smooth.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Immediately pour over everything in your kitchen, eat immediately. No judgment.