Mac and cheese is one of the most delicious foods on earth, but it’s actually more difficult than you might think to make at home. If you just add a bunch of shredded cheese to a pot of pasta, you’ll most likely end up with a weird, gloopy mess that hardens into a rock as soon as it cools down. If you want to make a gourmet macaroni and cheese from scratch, there’s one thing you need to do first: make a béchamel sauce.
Béchamel is incredibly easy to make: You just start with a traditional roux, made with equal parts flour and butter, and once that’s incorporated you stir in milk, almost like you’re making a cream gravy. Once you have this sturdy base you can add all the cheese your heart desires into the equation, before stirring in your pasta, pouring it into a baking dish, and finishing it up in the oven. These are the basic bones to macaroni and cheese recipes that chefs swear by, which also happen to be the best mac and cheese recipes on earth.
The type of sauce you’re stirring the pasta into in this case is actually called Mornay; it’s a traditional French sauce that has plenty of other uses besides as a base for mac and cheese. It’s also very nice atop broccoli or cauliflower, broiled on top of a ham and cheese sandwich to make a Croque-Monsieur, or as a dip.