This is the ultimate store cupboard meal, but trust me, it does not disappoint. It keeps well for a couple of days if you want to split it into two small dishes and bake when needed. Just leave off the topping on the second dish to keep it crispy and fresh. This cheese sauce is very versatile and can be used for cauliflower, lasagne…anything! Feel free to adjust the quantity of mustard (I am a huge fan), add bacon, ham, leave out the spring onions, add fried white onion, replace the breadcrumbs with crushed cheese and onion crisps – whatever you fancy!
40g plain flour
300ml semi-skimmed milk
100g strong cheddar cheese
around 200g pasta of your choice (macaroni or similar)
2 tsp mustard
small bunch of spring onions
sprinkling of basil
salt and pepper
Start by cooking your pasta, standard rules apply – salted water, around 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180*C.
Melt the butter in another pan and throw in the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly to form a stiff ball (a ‘roux’ as they say) and stir for another minute. Take off the heat. Add a little of the milk (around 20mls) to the roux and stir to make a paste. Add a little more of the milk and stir to get rid of any lumps. This bit is very important – make sure you add the milk very slowly and beat out any lumps that appear. As soon as you feel the paste turn to a liquid, you can relax and add the milk a little faster.
When all the milk is incorporated, put back on the heat. Stir constantly until it thickens – it should reach a consistency like custard. Remove from the heat, season well and grate in most of the cheese (leave a bit for the topping). Mix in the mustard well and ensure all the cheese is melted. Quickly slice the spring onions quite thinly. Fry in a little bit of butter until soft but not too brown. Add to the cheese sauce.
Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce. Make up the topping by grating the rest of the cheese and mix with the breadcrumbs (or crisps) and herbs. Spoon into a dish, sprinkle over the topping and bake until golden brown.