Today on Foodie Fridays, we are making the ULTIMATE macaroni and cheese! This recipe will rock your world like no other mac and cheese will. Believe me. I am so proud of this recipe.
Macaroni and cheese was the first savory dish I had ever made, so I wanted it to be my first Foodie Friday post!
Actually, I haven’t seen any single person sell mac and cheese in this country before. NEVER. It doesn’t exist where I live, or I think. So before I created this recipe, I could only imagine what mac and cheese tasted like.
First, I need to make this clear. This ain’t a low-cal recipe. But I’m not saying you should make this every day, or eat it every day. Once in a while, like I did yesterday, you need some real comfort food, and mac and cheese is a total comfort staple. (along with apple pie, which will come soon!) If you think you’ll feel guilty about it, make a plan to go running or go the gym the next day like I did. And it’s so creamy and cheesy, you won’t be able to finish a big portion of it. Small portions will satisfy, but be warned, the béchamel sauce is ADDICTING.
Second, I used five types of cheeses because that’s what I had on hand. I used cheddar, mozzarella, Colby Jack, Monterey Jack and a slice of Swiss. If you’ve got Parmeggiano Reggiano on hand, or Gouda, or Bree, feel free to mix and match! I got a deli sliced bag at Costco’s because I can’t find any cheese other than those used on hamburger slices at my local supermarket. Although I did try that once, it was still amazing but it definitely lacked diversity.
Third, if you’re a cooking newbie like I am or afraid of adding too much salt and pepper, just do what I do. I didn’t like doing this at the start, but then I realized that I needed to. Tasting is much better than serving the dish and thinking it’s over-salted or needing to sprinkle pepper on every bite to get enough flavor. Number one rule of cooking: Taste, taste, taste! And then adjust. You can’t take away what you’ve put in already, but you can control what you haven’t. You’ll be glad you have perfectly balanced dishes every time. But remember, depending on the types of cheeses you’re using, you might have to adjust.
I know some people, like me, hesitate to try out recipes if there isn’t really some sort of description of what the food tastes like, the texture, and if there are no photos I won’t even bother trying. So this is how it tastes like:
Amazingly creamy and cheesy, the crunchy browned crust on the top makes it even better. The béchamel is smooth and mouth-pleasuring, and bursting with flavor. The little black flakes of freshly cracked pepper looks gorgeous (like using vanilla beans!) and the pasta is perfectly al dente. It’s a mac and cheese lover’s dream come true!
Speaking of crusts, I tried a lot of different crusts on my mac and cheese, ranging from crushed up cheese crackers to normal breadcrumbs to panko breadcrumbs. Panko definitely gives it a sort of edge and LOTS of crunch, so I would recommend using panko breadcrumbs.
When I started to research mac and cheese recipes, I found baked and stovetop versions, and I spent a MONTH thinking about whether I wanted baked or stovetop. I was afraid baked mac and cheese would be too dry which I didn’t want, but I still wanted some crunchy topping on my mac and cheese cause I am a texture loving girl. I imagined mac and cheese as creamy, silky, cheesy (which stovetop could achieve) and warm with crunch on top. This a compromise between the two, and I love it! It totally satisfied my picky taste buds. I tried out so many recipes and knew exactly what I wanted and so I created my own.
Some of the process photos are below, I didn’t take any photos of the cooking pasta because I only have one small saucepan (plus one small frying pan and that’s it, my cookware is so limited it’s depressing. I can’t afford Calphalon or All-Clad, but I really wish I had some new pans!) and I was just able to fit a pound of pasta in the pan with the water boiling. There was absolutely no space at the top, the water just kept bubbling over and it was a mess to clean! I was so busy trying to poke my wooden spoon in to stir it without spilling anything which wasn’t humanly possible and trying to clean the whole mess up I couldn’t take photos. But I’ll try to snap a pic of my hopeless, tiny pan so you can sympathize with me.
I really wanted to show you how amazing the béchamel sauce looked like, it was so creamy and amazing and perfect looking I wanted to cry! I took over ten shots to actually get a sort-of decent photo, but I just couldn’t capture the beauty of that sauce. It was so beautiful and smooth and the perfect thick consistency.
By the way, I used a bag of adorable corkscrew pasta because the supermarket was out of elbow macaroni. And an 8×8 inch square pan to bake the pasta in, but you could also use a casserole dish, which I don’t have. Just so you know!
The ULTIMATE Mac & Cheese
Serves 8 or more or less
1 pound of pasta
3 cups of milk (or 4 cups of milk without cream)
1 cup of heavy cream
8 tbsp of butter (1 stick)
8 tbsp of flour
2 cups of cheddar
2 cups of mozzarella
1/2 cup of Colby Jack
1/2 cup of Monterey Jack
1 or 2 slices of Swiss
Salt and pepper to taste
Panko breadcrumbs, as much as you like
*Additional butter or oil, optional.
A big saucepan!
1. Preheat oven to 400 F° or 200 C°. Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain and run under cold water to stop if from cooking further, then put the pasta into a big bowl.
2. Warm up the milk and cream so it’s not cold and put aside for a minute.
3. Melt the butter and flour in a saucepan over medium heat and stir frequently, so no big lumps form. Cook it for about a minute to get rid of that raw flour taste.
4. Still over medium heat, slowly but steadily pour in your warmed milk and cream and stir for four to five minutes, or until it thickens and turns gorgeous. You’ll know it when you see it!
5. Take the pan off the best and toss in your cheeses and stir the béchamel sauce until fully melted.
6. Now is the time to season it! Add salt and pepper, tasting after every addition, stirring thoroughly. Add as much as needed or until it tastes perfect to you.
7. Pour the sauce into the bowl with the pasta and coat the whole thing with that beautiful sauce and dump it into your casserole dish.
Now, you’ve got a gorgeous mac and cheese, and you can eat it just like that but if you want some crunch, follow the next steps!
8. Top the dish with panko breadcrumbs, adding as much as you want. Throw some additional butter or oil evenly over the top and pop it into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or even longer if you wanted them really nicely browned.
Enjoy! And if you do try this recipe, please comment below cause I’d love to know!