When boiling elbow macaroni, or just about any type of pasta for that matter, you're not limited to just salted water. For extra flavor infusion, many chefs will cook pasta in flavorful stocks and even wine. Milk is also deliciously flavorful option for cooking macaroni, especially for dairy-based dishes like macaroni and cheese. One helpful, and tasty, benefit of cooking pasta directly in milk is that the starches in the pasta naturally thicken the milk into a great sauce base
Cooking the Macaroni
Add salt, macaroni and 2 1/2 cups of milk to a saucepan, stir the mixture thoroughly and place on a stove-top burner.
Turn heat to medium and bring milk to a low simmer, stirring constantly. When the milk reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low.
Cook pasta, stirring delicately but frequently, until al dente. Al dente literally translates as “to the tooth” from Italian; the pasta should be tender -- and not crunchy -- but still firm to the bite. Pasta should reach al dente in about 15 to 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the macaroni. If nearly all the milk absorbs into the pasta before the pasta fully cooks, add a small amount of milk as needed and continue cooking until done.
Add cheese and any other seasonings as you prefer and serve.
- Macaroni cooked in this manner makes for a perfect base for an easy, creamy stove-top macaroni and cheese. For a flavorful macaroni and cheese, add a dash of dry mustard and a little hot sauce to the milk and macaroni mixture before heating. After the pasta is cooked, slowly add cheddar, gruyere or other cheeses of your choice -- small amounts at a time -- and stir until melted and fully incorporated.
- Do not walk away from the stove at any time during cooking, stir frequently and never heat milk to higher than to a low simmer. Heated dairy liquids, like milk and cream, can all-too-easily curdle, boil over or scorch. Low heat and frequent stirring combats this problem.
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