The Key Ingredient Your Macaroni and Cheese Is Missing

And it's sitting right in your spice cabinet!

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 a ⅛-teaspoon of whole nutmeg grated on a Microplane transforms the ultimate comfort food dish into an even better version of itself.

Even if you're not going the whole nine yards by making your own decadent 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.

Why Use Nutmeg?

It may seem like an odd inclusion, but nutmeg is a traditional ingredient added to béchamel sauce—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.)

How to Incorporate It

Use five simple ingredients to make béchamel sauce: butter, flour, milk, nutmeg, and salt. 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, gradually whisk whole milk into the roux until evenly incorporated, then heat on the stovetop for at least 20 minutes. Finally, mix salt and freshly grated nutmeg 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 cozy up to this seriously upgraded version of macaroni and cheese.

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