Macaroni & Cheese

When it comes to comfort food, you can’t do much better than a big bowlful of gooey golden Mac & Cheese. Don’t be put off by the fact that it involves making a white sauce – this has a reputation for being tricky but actually it’s really simple. The secret of my Macaroni & Cheese is a hit of chilli that stops the richness being overwhelming.

250g macaroni or spirali pasta
40g butter
40g plain flour
280ml whole milk
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp hot chilli sauce
Salt and black pepper
Plenty of mature cheddar

Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are

Start by cooking the pasta, according to the instructions on the packet. Once the water has come to the boil, you can go on to making your sauce. Before you begin, measure out the milk in a jug, and have your mustard, chilli sauce and a whisk close at hand.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat, and then add the flour. Use a wooden spoon to mix vigorously until the two ingredients come together in a thick, smooth paste. Keep stirring and moving the paste around for a further two minutes – this is to ‘cook out’ the taste of the flour, as it can ruin a good Mac & Cheese.

Next, pour in about a quarter of the milk and stop stirring until the milk starts to bubble – this should only take a few moments. Stir the milk and the roux roughly together, add the rest of the milk, and then whisk vigorously (great for toning the arms) until you end up with a smooth sauce that’s even in colour. Move the pan off the heat and add the mustard, chilli sauce, salt and pepper, and keep whisking until the sauce thickens up a little. Have a little taste to make sure it tastes amazing.

By now, the pasta should be done. Drain it quickly and add to the pan with the white sauce, stirring well to coat the pasta. Grate a generous handful of cheddar into the pan and stir through, then grate a bit more and sprinkle evenly over the top. Pop it under the grill for a few minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling on top. To wash it down, I’d recommend a nice glass of red wine, to cut the richness.