Macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort food, not to mention one of the few pasta dishes that traditionally uses elbow macaroni. If you're making it, boil the pasta in milk rather than water. This technique helps produce the richest, creamiest mac and cheese possible. You can use it for other pasta dishes with a cream sauce, too. Don't worry about wasting the milk, either; after you cook the elbow macaroni, you can continue reducing the liquid and add flour, butter, cheese and other ingredients to thicken and flavor it, and use it for a sauce.
Things You'll Need
- Large saucepan
- Cooking spoon
Pour 2 quarts of milk per 8 ounces of dry elbow macaroni into a large saucepan. Use a roomy pot and a lot of liquid so the macaroni doesn't stick together.
Begin bringing the milk to a boil over high heat. Cover the saucepan to accomplish this faster. Keep an eye on the milk; it rises and may boil over if it comes to a boil rapidly. As it nears boiling, reduce the heat to medium to prevent overflow.
Add about 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of pasta once the milk reaches a boil. This brings out more flavor from the elbow macaroni. If you add the salt before the milk reaches a boil, it will take longer, as salt raises a liquid's boiling point; it also might damage the surface of the saucepan.
Pour the elbow macaroni into the boiling milk. Turn the heat back up to high to return the milk to a boil as quickly as possible. Watch to ensure there's no overflow. Stir the pasta right away with a cooking spoon, as immediate stirring helps prevent it from sticking together or to the bottom and sides of the saucepan.
Reduce the heat to medium-high when the boil returns. The milk should remain at a boil. Stir the elbow macaroni frequently while it cooks.
Cook the elbow macaroni to the desired texture. Use the time specified on the package as a guide, but don't rely on it. Begin timing when the milk returns to a boil after the pasta is added. When the recommended cooking time is almost elapsed, try a piece of macaroni to gauge its doneness. Cook longer as needed.
Strain the elbow macaroni in a colander if you're not using the milk for a sauce. If you are using the milk but need to reduce it more or otherwise work with it without the pasta, catch it in another saucepan in the sink while straining the pasta. Or if possible, leave the elbow macaroni in and add the other ingredients for the sauce. Do this off the heat, beginning about two minutes before the pasta is fully cooked, to prevent overcooked macaroni.
Tips & Warnings
- If the milk begins boiling over, transfer the saucepan to a burner that is off, reduce the heat on the burner you're using, then put the pot back after about 30 seconds.
- While milk with any fat content works to cook elbow macaroni, you get a much richer, more flavorful sauce if you use whole milk.
- Photo Credit Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty Images