Cheddar cheese can be notoriously stringy when melted. To keep the cheese from getting too stringy, it helps to coat it lightly with some flour or cornstarch. Adding some water to the sauce helps, as well as some lemon juice. Stirring encourages stringiness so keep the stirring to a minimum.
- 1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups, packed)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/4 cup milk, heated until steamy, but not simmering
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup ham, chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
- Freshly grated black pepper
1 In a medium sized bowl, mix cornstarch with the grated cheese, so that the cheese is coated, set aside. The cornstarch will help the cheese from getting too stringy.
2 Cook the macaroni pasta in boiling water: Heat 2 quarts of water with a tablespoon of salt to a rolling boil in thick-bottomed saucepan. Add 2 cups of elbow macaroni and follow the cooking time instructions on the package, minus about 2 minutes. (If your macaroni doesn't come with instructions, start checking at 7 minutes).
Cook until al dente—cooked through, but still slightly firm. Drain the pasta.
3 While the macaroni is cooking, prepare the sauce: Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in 2 Tbsp flour. Let cook for about a minute.
Slowly dribble in 1 1/4 cups milk, while whisking (to avoid clumping) until the sauce is smooth.
Slowly add the grated cheese, whisking until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice.
If the macaroni isn't ready yet, lower the heat to a level just high enough to keep the sauce warm.
4 Add the cooked macaroni and ham to the cheese sauce. Stir to combine. Do not over-mix. Sprinkle with some freshly grated black pepper.