For the best flavor use really good cheese. I love Tillamook cheese, so I'll recommend that, but you can use any good quality cheddar. Please don't use cheap cheese for this sauce; you'll end up with a greasy, waxy sauce. Not as tasty. Also, finely shredded cheese melts easier than a thicker shred.
Super-Creamy Mac & Cheese
1 lb. cellentani (cavatappi) or other shaped pasta
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 12-oz can evaporated milk (I used 2%)
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
4 oz extra-sharp white cheddar, finely shredded (about 2 cups)
4 oz extra-sharp yellow cheddar, finely shredded (about 2 cups)
fresh ground white or black pepper
if you want a bread-crumb topping:
2 cups dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta very well, shaking out as much water as possible, but do not rinse it with water. The starch on the pasta will help hang on to the cheese sauce. Return the pasta to the cooking pot.
2. While the pasta cooks, heat a medium pot over medium heat until hot. Add the oil and heat it for about 20 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it's starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the butter and let it melt. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes.3. Add the milks, whisking well to make sure the butter-flour mixture is incorporated. Cook, stirring often, until it has thickened, about 5 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Stir the sauce gently until the cheese is completely melted. It's important to not man-handle the sauce at this point; gentle stirring keeps the sauce from separating.
Lovely, creamy cheese sauce.
5. Add the sauce to the pasta, and stir gently to mix. You can now serve up your fabulous mac & cheese, or, if you want some lovely browned bread-crumb topping:
6. Heat your oven broiler on high. Transfer the mac & cheese to a 13x9-inch baking dish (glass or ceramic); set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs and melted butter, and mix well. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the mac & cheese and broil until it's golden brown, 3-5 minutes.
**I don't recommend baking this mac & cheese. The sauce is already perfect and creamy, and heating it up in the oven can (read "will") cause it to separate and get grainy. Not tasty. Broil the topping just until it's browned instead.
Makes 6-8 servings.