There are just some days when you want comfort food. Maybe there isn't a reason, but you want comfort food. For me, today was one of those days, and macaroni and cheese was the comfort food of choice. I've never made it from scratch before, but I'm pleased with the results; they were, well, comforting. I'm really not sure what it was about today that made it a comfort food day--do you really need a reason for macaroni and cheese?--but since I felt like cooking, this was the result. I don't think I'll ever do the boxed macaroni thing ever again....
A Respectable Bechamel (macaroni and cheese):
1 lb penne pasta (or whatever noodles you prefer)
3 cups soy milk (or dairy milk, if you prefer)
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp pepper
9 oz grated cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you like)
2 oz grated parmesan cheese (fresh adds a bit of kick to it)
1 cup cracker or bread crumbs
Cook and drain the pasta and set it aside while you work on the sauce--it's okay if it's cool when you get around to throwing the noodles into the pot; I used the same pot to make the sauce as I did the noodles, just to save a little cleaning up. Start preheating the oven to 375 degrees.
Melt the butter over medium heat and throw in the onions. Stir it around for a minute or two, just until the onions soften a little bit; add the flour gradually and stir it in. Keep stirring until the flour turns a light golden color, then start gradually adding the milk while you're stirring, thus getting rid of any big lumps of cooked flour. Let the milk mixture cook for 6 to 8 minutes at slow boil, then add about 2/3 of the cheddar and a little bit of the parmesan. Keep stirring while the sauce thickens; add salt and pepper. Continue stirring the sauce over medium-high heat--it'll thicken up some more, so that it coats the back of the spoon--for 6 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the pasta; stir until the pasta is evenly coated with sauce.
Butter (or use cooking spray) the bottom and sides of a 9x13 baking pan and pour the pasta and sauce into it. Mix the remaining cheese with the cracker crumbs and sprinkle over the top of the pasta before you put it in the oven. Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly.