This recipe looks long but it is really very simple and quick. Three steps: cook the pasta, make the sauce and, optional, bake in the oven with the crumb topping. The recipe is only long because I detail each step for novices. It's delicious and saucy served as soon as you combine pasta and sauce, but for true Rootitoot level deliciousness add the buttered crumbs and bake it for a few minutes. Okay. Here we go… Preheat the oven to 375.
2 cups macaroni or other small pasta
2 1/2 cups cold water
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp butter
2 1/4 cups milk
2 1/2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp ground dry mustard
or 1 tsp Dijon *
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
8 oz cheddar or other cheese **
The Butter Crumb Topping: (option but, oh... do it!)
1/2 cup Panko or crushed saltines
3 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
*Mustard Note: You cannot actually taste the mustard in this dish; it just enhances the cheese flavour. Use dry or Dijon.
**Cheese Note: I usually use aged or sharp cheddar but I also like Swiss or a combination of the two. Almost any combination of cheeses will work so feel free to use your favourites.
FOR THE PASTA: Put the macaroni, water, butter and salt in the Instant Pot and give it a stir. Close the lid and make sure the valve is set to Sealing. Push the Pressure Cook (or Manual) button. Adjust time using the + and - buttons to get to 4 minutes.
While it's cooking, grate about 3/4 of the cheese in one pile and dice the remaining 1/4 into 1/4” cubes in another pile. Heat the milk in the microwave but do not boil.
When it beeps that it's done, flip the valve to Venting for a quick release. Pour the pasta into a strainer and cover with a plate to keep it warm.
FOR THE SAUCE: Put the 2 1/2 Tbsp butter in the Instant Pot and hit the Saute button a couple of times to get to the “Normal” heat setting. (Pressing Saute a few times on the DUO model toggles through Saute’s three heat settings: Less, Normal and More.)
When the butter is melted, add the flour and dry mustard, if using. Stir constantly with a whisk for a couple of minutes to cook this roux. Keep it moving. Then add the hot milk all at once and whisk vigorously. (Add the Dijon mustard here, if you're using that.) Keep stirring until it comes back to a boil and thickens. It can scorch if you leave it. The sauce should be about the consistency of unwhipped heavy cream at this point. The cheese and pasta will thicken it, so if it's any thicker than heavy cream, whisk in a little milk, a tablespoon at a time to thin it a bit.
Hit Cancel. (You do NOT want the sauce to boil once the cheese is in; it can curdle.) Whisk in the salt, pepper and sugar. Add the grated cheese but keep the little cubes for later. Stir until the cheese melts. Taste it and add more salt and pepper if you like. (Incidentally, the sauce at this stage is what I use on steamed broccoli or cauliflower.) Stir in the cubed cheese and the pasta. If you like, you can heat it a little with the Saute function, but don't let it boil. You don't want the cheese cubes to melt into the sauce – they are great little cheesy bursts of flavor.
FOR THE TOPPING: mix the crumbs, melted butter and Parmesan cheese with a fork. Spread this evenly over the pasta and cheese sauce and bake at 375 for 10-20 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes before serving. This is how my mom taught me 50 years ago and it's still my favourite.