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[Photograph: Sara Remington]

In each chapter of Kelsey Nixon's new cookbook, Kitchen Confidence, there is an "essential" recipe. These essentials are usually very simple recipes and are intended as a blank canvas for further learning and experimentation. Nixon's stovetop macaroni and cheese is one such recipe. As such, there's not too much here that would sound unfamiliar to anyone who's made homemade mac and cheese. Nixon builds her sauce by starting with a béchamel, enriching it with a pound of cheese. Her choice in cheese—a 50/50 blend of cheddar and Muenster—is on the mild side, but it melts smoothly and would pair well with any of her three variations. A final sprinkle of Parmesan and parsley both seasons and brightens the blend, making for a solid (and quick) dinner.

Why I picked this recipe: I'm not going to beat around the bush—I had a craving for mac and cheese this week, so I couldn't stay away.

What worked: Simple, straightforward, and tasty, this take on basic macaroni and cheese was deeply satisfying.

What didn't: No problems at all.

Suggested tweaks: If you're looking to up your mac and cheese game, try one of the three variations in the recipe. If you're keeping the dish plain, you can also try swapping out one of the cheeses for a stronger-flavored choice, like Gruyère.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Kitchen Confidence to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. She blogs at Cooking Wolves. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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