There are dishes in life for which everyone has a recipe – this is one such dish. However, as with most, it is eminently possible for one to put in a little more effort and have ones mouth reap the rewards. In my experience, macaroni cheese is best when it isn’t overpowered by the flavour of a catastrophic quantity of mature cheddar; that’s not to say that it shouldn’t contain cheddar, but it needs a little more complexity to become truly exceptional. By far the best way of accomplishing this feat is to infuse the milk used to make the cheese sauce – it adds a surprising depth of flavour which gives the dish a certain gastronomic eloquence.
Don’t let me limit the scope of your mind regarding the flavours with which you ought to infuse your milk. However, the most commonly used ingredients in this process are things like bay leaves, cloves, pepper corns and onions. A pinch of nutmeg also goes down well, particularly in pasta dishes like this or lasagne. It takes a little extra time, but the process of infusing your milk is rather simple and will infinitely improve any milk based sauces you make. Guidance about how to infuse your milk can be found below, though I suspect most of you have some experience of it already.
You’ll be glad to hear that my life in Bristol is going rather well; the estate agent has seen fit to do some work and as a result we now have a flat. The job is also going particularly well and I’m enjoying writing about more important issues than food. Actually, who am I kidding? There’s nothing more important than food. On with the recipe!
• 600ml semi-skimmed milk
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 cloves
• 1 onion, halved
• 5-6 peppercorns
• A pinch of nutmeg
• ½ tsp Dijon mustard
• 200g mature cheddar cheese
• 2 tbsp flour
• 1 tbsp butter
• 350g pasta, macaroni or similar
• 50g parmesan cheese
• Salt and pepper
1. Begin by infusing your milk. To do this simply heat the milk over a low heat along with the bay leaves, the onion studded with the cloves, peppercorns, a pinch of nutmeg and a little Dijon mustard. Heat for up to an hour if possible, but half an hour will do nicely. Make sure not to let it boil.
2. Put the pasta on to boil and preheat the oven to 200C. Sieve the milk to remove the bay leaves et al. Heat the butter in a saucepan, mix in the flour, cook for a minute or two before whisking in the milk and cheese. It should achieve the consistency of slightly thin custard. Drain the cooked pasta, mix the cheese sauce in and transfer into a casserole dish. Season in necessary.
3. Grate the parmesan over the top of the pasta, sprinkle over some cracked black pepper and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately.
Cost: Macaroni cheese is one of those very basic recipes that seems to always cost very little to prepare. This recipe is no different and should set one back a mere £1.80.
154 replies on “Infused Macaroni Cheese”
I do love a good macaroni and cheese. You are so correct, using a mature cheddar truly matters and infusing the milk, well that’s just brilliant! You’ve made me hungry this morning. 🙂
Oh yes, it must be mature… and be REAL cheddar. Not that orange jack or whatever it’s called in America… You’d better eat!
Hahaha! Yep, we’ve got some nasty orange cheese over here. Although a few local Washington dairy’s make a lovely aged cheddar, free of the orange color, and we always have a steady supply of fantastic English and Irish Cheddar. One of my fave’s is Coastal. What are your recommendations? I might be able to find it here.
I have seen… :D. That’s good. Umm – I doubt it, I tend to buy the locally produced ones that don’t travel very far. If you can find one called Tickler that’s really nice.
I’ve never thought of infusing the milk for my mac and cheese. I must give it a try! Also, I noticed your recipe calls for Dijon mustard. I think that’s brilliant!
Oh yes, you must! A little mustard goes a long way 😀
Thanks for the head’s up on the mustard. I sometimes forget that you can have too much of a good thing! 🙂
It’s true – you can!
Mixing the flour with water makes a slurry. A roux requires that the flour be cooked in fat until the raw taste is gone. Roux is fast, easy, and much improves the flavor over using raw flour in water.
I did make a roux, I completely forgot having cooked this over a week ago! Forgive me, recipe shall be altered! 😀
Just like my Granny made! She was an old cow, but she made a decent Macaroni Cheese – cheers for the nostalgia! Glad to hear things are good down in Bristol!
Fantastic! Oh no… I loved my Gran. Still do, even though she’s popped her proverbial clogs… 😀 Thanks, Juls!
I agree Nick – nothing is more important than food – however it is lovely to focus the mind on other matters as well! Love this and have never thought to infuse the cheese sauce – this is fabulous!
Food is rather good isn’t it? :D. Give it a pop 😀
Mac n Cheese on the menu for tomorrow night…. 🙂
I have to agree with drgaellon about the roux. And depending how long you cook the butter and flour before adding the milk, you will get a nice nutty flavour coming through. But great looking macaroni cheese. Can’t beat the basics, and it’s just the dish for the autumn evenings that are beginning to roll in. My own macaroni cheese has got a bit out of hand, with additions of tinned tuna, red pepper, sauted onion and mushrooms, frozen peas, carrot etc. In fact, what I do is saute the veg, then if necessary add a little more fat and the flour, and then add the milk.
You prompted me, I did make a proper roux for this – am changing the recipe now! I just completely forgot!
I adore mac and cheese and agree re Cheddar. I also add in a dash of horseradish!
Sounds like a great idea, I’d imagine it does something similar to the mustard.
We do a similar mac n cheese. It is a traditional holiday dish for us.
Oh fantastic! It works well, doesn’t it?
It really does. My Grammy used to make it so we’ve kept that tradition alive.
That’s wonderful 🙂
Infused milk! Fabulous idea Nick! I did a smoked coconut gouda (homemade) mac & cheez last night, with dijon of course! Next time I’ll try the bay leaves and peppercorns in the cashew milk.
P.S. Last call for the Virtual Vegan Potluck, it’s nearly full. I’d really like to see you there. Pretty please? 🙂 🙂 🙂
I want to, but I have no idea when I’ll be up and running for blogging in Bristol! I need new equipment and perhaps even a new table, or at least some planks I can customise! I don’t want to let it down!
Oh come on, you could do a lentil stew and it would be smashing. Nothing would be a let down. Everything you make is fabulous…. Surely you’ve got something up your sleeve. I’m sick and tired of everyone’s “fancy planks” and your old table is simply lovely! 😉 I’ll stop harassing you now 🙂 Promise!
But I won’t have that table in Bristol, it’s my mother’s! I’d rather have a plank than a not-so-nice pine table… we’ll have to see once I’m settled. I know it would taste good, but I want it to look good to – I’m a perfectionist :D. Ok, look, I’ll sign up!
Loud Cheering and Whooping!!! WOOHOO! p.s. as if I couldn’t tell you’re a perfectionist! 😉 THANK YOU!!!
p.s. Shira photographs a lot of her food outside on the ground on her deck, I’m sure you’ll come up with something, but yes, it’s a shame to be losing your mother’s table.
I’d rather shoot inside. But I’ll come up with something. No worries!
What section do I do?! Soup?! That would be good I suppose.
Here’s a hint, look at the course list on the site, the earlier the course, the more hits you’ll get. 🙂 But yes, your soups are incredible.
Right! I’m signed up… I don’t really understand what happens next, but I’ll sit tight…
It’s basically a pre-scheduled post, nothing tricky the only thing you really need to do is provide links in your post to the site before and after yours in the line up. I’ll email you deets soon.
Thanks again. Grinning ear to ear!
Well, I’m flattered to be THAT wanted… devoted meat-eater that I am.
You’ve got some of the best vegan recipes in our “little sphere” give yourself a bit more credit!
It’s probably best left to others :D. But thanks!
I didn’t reply to this bit. Thanks! That sounds delicious! Yes, give them a go – it works very well!
No worries Nick! It’s crazy the stuff I’ve come up with to get around dairy, but I enjoy a good challenge!
You know, I’ve started to feel slightly bad whenever I drink milk – I love it too much to stop though. Things like butter are fine though, they tend to be less likely to set these things off right?
Exactly, butter, cheeses and yogurt are at least slightly fermented which aids in digestion. It’s likely you have a mild lactose intolerance. I know that taking a natural enzyme like the ones found in papaya can help aid in the digestion of dairy products. 🙂
Thanks for the tip 😀
No worries, mate 😉
looks fantastic. i will have to infuse next time i make a mac – thanks again for the dinner inspiration
Thanks! Yes, give it a go – you won’t regret it 😀
What a great idea!
Thanks! It worked very well.
Reblogged this on thesurvivalplaceblog.
Looks pretty fabulous!!!
Thanks, bonnie! It was 😀
The infused milk bit is exactly what my mum and now me do when we make bread sauce…. Mmmmm love bread sauce….. And it sounds like a fantastic addition to macaroni cheese. Will try it next time.
Fantastic! Give it a go!
Lol looks like Somer REALLY wants you there! Love the Macaron and cheese ideal. I have to say its not HUGE in Australia…but it is comfort food of the highest degree. I tend to bypass it thanks to my newfound desire to be able to see my shoes (that’s both dairy AND non dairy Somer ;)) but its comfort food of the highest degree and infusing your milk is a fantastic idea. Cheers for another great recipe…good luck resisting Somer! 😉
I know! I’m a meat eater too :D. It’s not that big here either, but this is delicious :). To be honest, this one doesn’t use loads of cheese and uses semi-skimmed milk so it’s not THAT bad. But, yes, I only very rarely eat it! I like my feet.
Mmm macaroni cheese! Has to be mature cheddar too – I’m living in France at the moment, supposedly the land of cheese, and yet, they just don’t have a good hard cheese to rival the wonder that is cheddar 😉 Katie x
Oh yes, it HAS TO BE. It’s difficult to beat a good cheddar in my opinion. I feel French cooking is overrated anyway…
I love a bit of French food every now and then, but I just can’t stand French people claiming that English food is horrible…
Exactly! That;s exactly it!
I like using wholegrain mustard in my sauce – and mix the topping cheese with breadcrumbs for a bit of contrasting crunch. Brilliant shots on this entry – making my stomach growl. Nos Da.
I’m not the biggest fan of wholegrain… for me it would overpower the dish. But that’s a personal preference. I was toying with breadcrumbs, but I thought I;d just crisp the cheese up. Thanks! You too!
that mac looks like magic… and now i’m craving it SO BAD!!! just think of all the different flavors you could infuse! my brain is going to explode…
Thanks! Hehe, I hope that it doesn’t!
Looks & sounds delicious!
Thanks so much!
Infused milk! What a brilliant idea. I wish I could like the post more than once. I’m trying this with my next mac & cheese.
Thanks! I wish people could too :D. I know you’ll love it!
Oh my goodness yes…I want this now.
You’d better get on and make it then 😀
That’s a lovely smear of cheese stuff in the photo, Nick — beautiful color.
That’s mustard, not cheese. If cheese looked like that I’d never use it 😀
Oooh, the milk infusion sounds delightful. I like to eat my mac and cheese out of a bowl with a spoon… pure comfort food!
Absolutely – it really is!
How did you know that I have been craving macaroni and cheese today? I love the infusion of milk and the flavors! Looks delicious!
I confess… I didn’t… :D. Thanks 🙂
You have set me on a challenge for gluten free Mac and Cheese… I’ll get back to you when I make my version! Your wording masks me want to cook. Thank you.
Yes! Let me know – I’m sure you’ll work it out. thank you too.
And now my brain is “infused” with new ways to make one of my favorite meals! What a great idea, unique and one-of-a-kind.. that’s you!! Congrats on your new flat, your new job.. everything:)
Haha – nice! Thanks – everything seems to be going so well!
You, sir, are a genius. I will be doing this next time I make mac and cheese. I agree that it usually lacks depth and character, but the possibilities are endless with a technique like this. Love it! And might I add – your photos are looking lovely!
Thanks, Willow :). Not as good as your photos yet though.
Yummy! I love Mac and cheese. It’s my favorite! I use Vermont cheddar and yellow american. It’s pretty awesome, but I’d love to try your infused milk recipe.
Fantastic! You should try it 🙂
And I also, love lots of pepper!
Me too! Pepper is great!
The ultimate comfort food! Looks delicious, as always Nick!
Hehe – thanks, Korena!
Nice bay leaf, mustard photo.
Thanks! A little dark, but still.
Mmm macaroni & cheese, the ultimate comfort food. Thanks for this & hope you’re enjoying Bristol!
It is indeed! Bristol is fantastic.
I usually use a mix of cheeses — cheddar, fontina, sometimes parmesan — and I always do a homemade bread or panko crumb topping. And sometimes I’ll infuse my milk with … bacon. 😉
I thought about using breadcrumbs but decided against it. I didn’t want it too cheesy either, it gets a little heavy I find.
Nutmeg and bay are a must in my book. I also always add little bits of crispy bacon and halved cherry tomatoes to roast on top – it’s a throwback to my Mum’s macaroni cheese when I was little and it’s hard to beat! Although this does look delicious too 🙂
Absolutely! Not a bad idea! I tend to like it a little more simple – though tomatoes on the top are always nice.
Good to hear about the flat. I like your spice mix. Can’t beat nutmeg.
Nutmeg is a must in white sauce, Greg.
In Newfoundland we call it cheese ‘n’ ‘do, for the “scoobi doo” (cavatappi) pasta that they use instead of macaroni. It’s definitely a go-to recipe for us, though I never thought of using mustard, mostly because the Pie hates it. But this is a sneaky way of getting it in there …
Really? That’s funny :P. I’m not a big fan of mustard – it adds a little more interest, nothing more.
Thanks for the infused milk tip, sounds a winner.
No problem – it is 😀
What beautiful writing! I hope you’ll consider contributing this recipe to the Shine Supper Club (our theme this month is pasta)!
Thanks so much! I’ll check it out.
hip hip Nick, jolly good and all that, ’bout Bristol and the flat and the writing about things we can’t eat, and ALL that! And I really like your take on mac n cheese! Brilliant! 🙂 Way to go mate!
Haha. Thanks – it was really rather delicious 🙂
Looks and sounds delicious! And your flat was looking very nice too! 🙂
Thanks – it’s a really nice flat.
Infusing the milk – brilliant idea!
Thanks – it gives the dish that extra dimension!
Your macaroni cheese sounds delicious. I always infuse milk with bay, a clove studded onion and a few peppercorns when I make bread sauce but I have never thought to do the same for a simple white sauce. Thanks for the great suggestion
Thanks! Yes – give it a go, it works wonders.
Hello! I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Please check out: http://weeknighttreats.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/very-inspring-blogger-nomination for badge and info. -Simple Nourishing Delicious
Thanks so much – I’ll have to check it out.
Oh My! This looks amazing. Pretty sure I will skip Saturday night wines and enjoy a huge bowl of this masterpiece instead!
Oh no… don’t skip wine… never skip wine…
I hated macaroni cheese for years but this one looks so grown up, I might have to give it another try.. morning fruge.. c
Thanks, Ceci – I’ve never liked it loads, but this works well.
Your lead photo, first paragraph, and subsequent recipe have become my defining standard for macaroni cheese. I’m making this for lunch. Actually, lunch is 3 hours out. I’m making this now. Many thanks!
Haha – what a compliment :D. Enjoy!
This looks soooooooooooo good!
Thanks! It was very tasty 🙂
Loving the idea of the infused milk! SO many options to consider!
Reblogged this on deliciouscravings.
A friend of mine tried this recipe back in Mumbai – and sends his best regards! This has been an across-the-oceans hit 🙂
Haha! Fantastic. Thanks so much.
Thank you for visiting my blog and liking my “Homemade Doggie Treats” post. Your Infused Macaroni Cheese recipe looks yummy!
No problem! thank you!
Mac and Cheese is a favorite in my house. Yours looks delicious! I will have to test it on my family. Blessings, Diane Roark http://www.recipesforourdailybread.com
Fantastic – thanks so much, Diane!
Thanks for liking my post. I love macaroni and cheese and am definitely going to use your infused milk recipe. Sounds fabulous!
No problem! you should – it gives it a great flavour.
Yum! I’ve never tried homemade mac and cheese… this sounds like a good version to experiment with 🙂
Oh you must make it!
This sounds like it could become a favorite. I’m a mac & cheese fan from way back. Can’t wait to try it!
I hope you like it… I know you’ll like it.
Macaroni cheese was the first dish I learnt to cook when I was little. We didn’t have a conventional oven but a Rayburn (a bit like an Aga). It meant that it took a little longer to cook and it never had those crispy, crunchy bits where the cheese had caught in the heat but it just melted when you ate it. I’d forgotten just how simple yet good it was, thank you for reminding me!
That’s cool – I know all about rayburns :D. I think they produce fantastic food.
This sounds like something I will need to make! Great photos too!
You should! It was delicious, thanks!
This looks really delicious!
Thanks so much, Sabine! 🙂
Oh my goodness, your pictures make even food that I wouldn’t normally think looked good… look good! It’s an antidote to picky eating.
I have tried to make mac and cheese before but I always screw it up, and the cheese separates and it’s just awful, so we never have it because I refuse to use my mother’s favorite recipe: velveeta and noodles. What is even in velveeta?
Thanks so much! I have no idea what velveeta is! Try this recipe, the cheese definitely won’t split if it’s of half-decent quality!
infusing the milk is the secret! I’ve been craving mac and cheese for a week now, and your pics are a good fix. Oh, and congrats on the flat! food is important, but so is stability. 🙂
IT is indeed! Oh yes, I do like being stable!
[…] the milk (but didn’t have a bay leaf) and followed the basic proportions and recipe of this mac and cheese and included pumpkin purée in the amount prescribed by this recipe at the time it suggests […]
I’m absolutely making this for my New Years Eve dinner party!
Fantastic – I hope you enjoy it!
[…] a mac and cheese that fits the mood. You can keep it simple. You can spice things up. You can infuse. You can go swimming. You can ask for a heart attack. You can tie flowers in your hair. You can […]