Cheese sauce is one of those things that are heavenly when homemade, and just as easy to make, in truth, as some abysmal boxed mac and cheese spackle. And the taste is as different as ambrosia is to raw sloth spleens, so unless you have some perverse penchant for raw sloth spleens, you have no excuse not to make your own cheese sauce. It will bring you happiness and contentment, purpose and meaning, earn you friends, get you a raise at work and the respect of your coworkers as well as the awe of young children who will gawp in goggle-eyed wonder as you leave rainbows in your wake; it will teach you to rumba and do your taxes and generally turn your life around. A good cheese sauce can do just about anything.*
Pasta and Broccoli with Bacon and Spicy Cheese Sauce
Cook ten pieces of bacon in your preferred way. The easiest technique is in the microwave, but if you want something more flavourful and have the time, I recommend this method. Chop into small pieces and set aside.
Cut up into small pieces and steam two crowns of broccoli to desired doneness (don't let it turn to mush. Just tender and bright green is best). Set aside.
Boil whatever pasta you like according to the package directions. It's best to use a variety that will hold the sauce well. While doing this, make the cheese sauce.
Ingredients here are somewhat fluid, depending on how much you want to make and what consistency you like your sauce to be. You really just need to fool around with it until you get the feel - and no mistakes are unfixable... if too thick, add milk. If too thin, add cheese. If the shaker top falls off the cayenne... well, sweat it out, buster. You'll get it. The basics, quantified where possible, are:
2-3 tablespoons butter
1-3 tablespoons flour
Milk (use whatever fat content you like, but I use nonfat (don't kill me!) and the sauce still will be thick)
Grated extra sharp Cheddar cheese
Crumbled blue cheese, the more potent the better
Black pepper, freshly ground
Nutmeg, freshly grated
In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add enough flour (a tablespoon or two, or three depending on how much butter you used) to make a paste. Whisk constantly until blended - be careful it doesn't burn. Add milk - I do 2-3 cups. Whisk to blend into a roux. Dribble in about a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and pour in about 1/4 cup sherry. Whisk. Turn heat to very low. Start adding cheeses and whisk to melt them, adding enough to get the consistency you like. If you put in a bit too much and it gets too thick, add a smidge of milk. Whisk over very low heat until all cheese is melted and the texture becomes smooth. Finally, stir in lots of black pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg - again, whatever degree of spice you like (I like a lot).
Dish up the pasta, distribute broccoli and bacon, ladle on oceans of the cheese sauce; then sit back and wait for your life to metamorphose into a glorious apogee of beauty and oneness with the universe. At least while you're eating.
*Not an actual claim that cheese sauce can do anything but be delicious**
**But it actually can