I always bust my friends’ balls when it comes to making mac and cheese, since they’re not all “from scratch” guys. I ask them how they make their cheese sauce. The most common response? They toss Velveeta or another melting cheese right into the hot pasta. Needless to say, that’s not what I consider the best way, so buried in this easy-to-make fried mac recipe is a great cheese sauce recipe. There are lots of ways to kick this up more than a few notches—like mixing in leftover chili or buffalo chicken before frying —but this keeps it simple and kick-ass.
– 1 cup (116 g) elbow macaroni.
– 2 tbsp (30 g) unsalted butter.
– ¼ cup (31 g) all-purpose flour.
– ½ cup (60 ml) milk.
– 1 tsp (5 g) salt.
– 1 tsp (2 g) black pepper.
– 1 tsp (3 g) granulated garlic.
– ½ cup (60 g) shredded cheddar cheese.
– ½ jalapeño pepper, cut into very thin rings.
– 1 cup (60 g) dry unseasoned bread crumbs.
– 1 cup (235 ml) oil.
Step 2: In a second medium-size pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to keep the butter from burning. Add a pinch of flour at a time, stirring it in until the mix becomes a paste. This step is super important: once the butter and flour have gotten pasty, immediately add milk, about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) at a time, until the mix is saucy.
Step 3: Repeat until the milk and the flour are both gone. Don’t take a shortcut and mix it all up at once, man—and I know that was your first thought— the sauce is gonna be lumpy and gross. When you have a smooth sauce, add the salt, pepper and garlic. Stir in the shredded cheese, mixing constantly until the cheese has melted into the sauce. Turn the heat down to low and let the sauce cook for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
Step 4: You want the sauce to be thick, not soupy, for the mac to hold. Put the pasta into the cheese sauce (that way only one pan is a real mess), add the jalapeño pepper, and stir it in well. Let it sit until the sauce is cool enough for you to stick your hands in. As the pasta cools, the cheese sauce will get sticky and a little bit thicker. Wet your hands and start rolling the pasta into 4 to 6 equal balls. Put them on a baking sheet, or a plate, and put them in the fridge. Leave them for 30 minutes.
Step 5: Put the bread crumbs into a shallow bowl. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. In about 2 minutes, put a pinch of bread crumbs into the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. (Don’t test it with the cheese balls; they’ll get soggy and oily.) Once the oil is hot, coat the mac balls completely with bread crumbs and put them into the oil. Fry for about 1 minute until browned, and roll to the other side and repeat. Once the balls are browned, remove from the pan and drain on paper. The coolest thing about cooking these? Nothing in the mix is raw or dangerous, so undercooking isn’t going to make you sick.