Mac and Cheese


I went to a conference last week which I had been dreading for weeks.  This is unusual for me–I love that I get the chance to hear about innovations and creativity and what happens when hunches become ideas and then plans and then finally, action.  In short, I love learning and the excitement of applying lessons back in my own work.

Then my son was born.  And the thought of being away from him for more than a day was heartbreaking.  You’d think I was going off to Afghanistan, that’s how dramatic this whole scene unfolded.

When I finally broke the news to him that I was leaving for a few days, it did break our collective hearts–my husband included because he watched this whole conversation unfold while J and I sat on the couch with my boy on my lap, refusing to let go.

“But Mommy, when will you come back?”

“I’ll be back on Wednesday.”

“Is tomorrow Wednesday?

“No, honey.  Tomorrow is Monday.”

So that turned into a lengthy conversation and a lesson about the days of the week, the difference between work and vacation and just because you go on an airplane doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going on vacation. It all ended with an earnest promise in between sniffles, “I’ll be brave.”

It was a long three days barely eased by Face Time.

When I got back, there was a request for Mac and Cheese and then the bigger request, “Don’t go away again, OK?  Me and Daddy were sad because we didn’t have a Mommy in the house.”

So while it’s no substitute for a mommy, the Mac and Cheese like a mommy, brings comfort and warmth to your heart and to your belly.

Inspired by Homeroom, my new favorite restaurant in Oakland, I tried my hand at 3 different kinds: Sriracha Mac which is as awesome as it sounds, English Cheddar Mac with panko and Gruyere Mac trailer style with hotdogs and potato chips–only mine was made with chicken apple sausage. All were incredible.


Bechamel Sauce:

3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup of shredded cheese (I used 1/2 Gruyere and 1/2 English cheddar)

8 oz of Cavatappi pasta, yields about 6 cups of pasta


Preheat oven to 375.

Over high heat, boil the pasta about 7 minutes for al dente.  Drain.

Microwave milk about  3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.

Heat the butter over medium heat in a separate, heavy-bottomed pot. When the butter has just melted, add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Slowly pour the warm milk, about 1 cup at a time, into the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly. It will get very thick when you first add the milk, and thinner as you slowly pour in the entire 3 cups. This is normal.

Once all the milk has been added, set the pot back over medium-high heat, and continue to whisk constantly. In the next 2 to 3 minutes the sauce should come together and become silky and thick. Add the salt.


Stir in shredded cheese into the bechamel sauce until melted.  Add the pasta and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is coated in the cheese sauce. Sprinkle Panko bread crumbs (found in most grocery stores) evely on top.  Bake in 375 degree oven until bubbling and brown, about 20-25 minutes.


Cavatappi with its ridges and corkscrew shape is perfect for the sauce to adhere to


Trailer Mac style: Add in 2 chicken apple sausage links or hotdogs, top with crushed potato chips.  Lay’s is the perfect potato chip in life and in mac and cheese.

Sriracha Mac: Add 1-2 tbsp of sriracha and 1/2 – 1 tsp of ginger/garlic paste in your cheese mixture.  This paste is commonly used in Indian cooking and can be made by taking equal amounts (4 oz) of ginger and garlic and 1 tbsp of olive oil and pureeing in a food processor.




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