Everyone loves mac ‘n’ cheese (except the people who don’t.) It’s quick and easy, and an excellent comfort food. And, yes, it’s still quick and easy even if you don't make it from a packet. Let me explain.

The way I was taught to make white sauce (the base for this cheese sauce) at school was the complicated way – melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and cook for a little while (making sure not to burn it), then add the milk a little at time until you reach the desired consistency, hopefully avoiding ending up with something lumpy. Then, on the BBC’s Food and Drink, the late Michael Barry pointed out the Crafty way to do it: chuck all the ingredients in a pan over a low heat and whisk vigorously until it’s done. The real trick, I’ve found, is the right whisk:

Crafty Whisk

Oh, and don't forget to be a pirate.

Mac 'n' Cheese - serves 2

  • 180g rigatoni, penne, or other dried pasta
  • 300ml milk (I use semi-skimmed)
  • 25g butter
  • 4 heaped teaspoons plain white flour
  • 100g grated extra-mature cheddar
  • Salt & Tabasco sauce to season

Put your pasta into a pan of boiling, salted water, and leave to simmer for 11 minutes (or however long it says on the packet), stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, pour the milk into another pan over a low heat, adding a dash of Tabasco and a pinch of salt. Dice the butter, and add it and the flour to the milk, then start whisking. The sauce usually starts to thicken without warning on the bottom of the pan, so don't leave it alone for more than ten-fifteen seconds. Don’t worry too much if it gets a bit lumpy, vigorous application of elbow grease will almost always fix that. Once the sauce is nice and thick, add the cheese half at a time, stirring it in until melted. If all’s gone well, the pasta should be done at about the same time; drain it, stir well into the sauce, and serve.

Variant: Before serving, pour into an ovenproof dish, top with more cheese, and bake at 180ºC for twenty minutes or so, until the cheese is browned.