I admit that the world needs another macaroni and cheese recipe about as much as it needs another Fast & Furious film…I concede that. And yet I’m going to share my mac n cheese recipe with you anyway, which I’m sure comes as a surprise to exactly no one. While I am not above hungrily scarfing down Annie’s mac n cheese in the company of my 2 year old, once in a while I want to make the “real” thing. The type of mac n cheese where your wrist hurts from grating blocks of cheese. The kind of mac n cheese that you eat during a New Jersey snowstorm with your best friend. So if you want the cozy, gives-you-all-the-hygge-feelings macaroni and cheese, I hope you’ll give this a try! It’s damn good.
BAKED MACARONI AND CHEESE
16 oz elbow macaroni or cavatappi pasta
extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
5 and 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups sharp white cheddar, grated
2 cups Gruyere, grated
2 cups gouda, grated
1 and 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch or two of sea salt
1. Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9×12” baking dish. In a medium bowl, mix together all the breadcrumb topping ingredients and set aside.
2. Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta one minute less than al dente and drain. Toss the pasta with a couple glugs of olive oil and set aside.
3. Make the sauce: Heat a large, heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the butter, and when it’s melted whisk in the flour. When the flour turns light golden brown add the milk, a little bit at a time, whisking between each addition. Bring the mixture to a simmer for a 2-3 minutes, constantly whisking. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the salt, pepper, ground mustard, cayenne, and nutmeg.
4. Stir in the four types of cheese. When all the cheese is melted, remove from heat and stir in the cooked noodles.
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread the prepared breadcrumbs evenly on the surface of the mac n cheese.
6. Bake: Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges of the dish are bubbling and the breadcrumb topping is golden brown. Let the dish cool for a few minutes out of the oven before serving.
*to serve 5-6, halve the recipe and use an 8×8” pan instead