Last week Bogdan and I went to Town Tavern in Royal Oak because Four Square told us the lobster mac and cheese was “to die for.” It was not.
For the most part it was okay. The lobster was cooked well, the macaroni was slightly overdone but acceptable, the sauce could have been creamier. It would have been okay overall (like 6.5 out of 10 maybe?) but the ritz cracker crust was burnt. I don’t mean browned, I mean charred. Seemed to be a theme since the truffle fries we ordered were also covered in burnt garlic, which as far as I know is a big culinary no-no.
We definitely had high expectations not only based on the Four Square reviews, but also based on the cost. At $17 for a small plate of mac and cheese it better be to die for.
Anyway, the point is that after that experience I decided I would make my own mac and cheese from scratch. It’s a longstanding fascination of mine to taste the most scratch-made versions of anything and everything. I especially love making super indulgent guilty pleasures from scratch. They can only get better, right?
When it comes to mac and cheese this means the best cheddar I can find, pure cream, and most importantly homemade macaroni. If you want to go the extra step you can also try making this macaroni for saffron mac and cheese.
The Origins of Macaroni
Have you ever thought about where macaroni originated? Since I started making pasta more often I’ve gained an appreciation for how certain pasta shapes must have developed. For example, I’ll never forget the first time I used the pasta machine and looking down at the long, thin uncut sheets of pasta it my hands it suddenly dawned on me that I was holding lasagna. It was a total revelation.
Lasagna is easy enough to understand, as is spaghetti and fettuccini, but when you consider more elaborate pasta shapes things start to get murkier.
Macaroni isn’t an obvious shape like lasagna or spaghetti. When I decided to make homemade macaroni it occurred to me that I had no idea how to do so. I scoured the internet and YouTube for help. I don’t have an extruder so that was out of the question. Luckily, Wikihow came to the rescue.
I don’t know if macaroni emerged spontaneously, the creative ambition of a bored Italian housewife somewhere, or if it came about with the invention of industrial extruders. Whatever the case, making macaroni by hand feels very old world and very traditional.
The method I used was similar to the one described in the Wikihow post. I made a double batch of my go-to pasta dough recipe, rolled it out into thin sheets then cut into small roughly 2cm/1inch squares and used a bamboo skewer to roll them into little tubes.
On the one hand, it was tedious and it took a very long time to finish a bowl of macaroni. On the other, it was beautiful. Once I got the technique it was all muscle memory, like knitting. Knitting perfect little pasta jewels that we then got to eat.
Like all fresh pasta boil for up to 3 minutes for al dente. Do not bake in too much cream in the oven for an hour because you will regret wasting so much effort.