The One Key Ingredient Your Macaroni and Cheese Is Missing
Milk? Check. Cheese? Duh! Butter? Of course. Nutmeg? Wait, what?
News flash: Whether you make it from a box or completely from scratch, the key to an indulgent, flavorful batch of macaroni and cheese is nutmeg. Just an 1/8-teaspoon of whole nutmeg grated on a microplane transforms the ultimate comfort food dish into an even better version of itself. It’s the type of ingredient that will make anyone eating macaroni and cheese with nutmeg wonder what magical addition has made this familiar dish taste so good. Even if you’re not going the whole nine yards by making your own macaroni and cheese, you’ll be amazed at how freshly grated nutmeg can transform a basic box of shells and a powdered white cheddar cheese packet.
It may seem like an odd inclusion at first thought, but nutmeg is a traditional ingredient added to béchamel sauce after all. Béchamel is the creamy white sauce that's the base for macaroni and cheese and other gratins (it’s also one of the five French mother sauces, created by renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier).
Béchamel sauce is made with five simple ingredients: butter, flour, milk, nutmeg, and salt. To make béchamel sauce, simply whisk together equal parts of butter and flour in a saucepan to form a paste known as a roux. The roux is what gives the béchamel sauce its creamy consistency and body. Next, whole milk is gradually whisked into the roux until evenly incorporated, then heated on the stovetop for at least 20 minutes. Finally, salt and freshly grated nutmeg are mixed into the sauce to add flavor.
But macaroni and cheese isn’t technically made with béchamel sauce; it’s made with Mornay sauce, which is béchamel sauce that has shredded Gruyère or cheddar cheese added to it. Create a little more heat by adding freshly ground black pepper to your Mornay sauce. Fold cooked pasta into the Mornay sauce, top it with breadcrumbs, and there you have it!
Now grab a bowl and cozy up to this seriously upgraded version of macaroni and cheese. It’s as simple and delicious as ever.