The Best Mac 'N Cheese That Ever Happened to You - A Multi-Part Recipe
I recommend you listen to this Ray LaMontane song as you eat it, because I know that's how you'll feel about this macaroni and cheese dish.
This Mac n Cheese is the best thing that ever happened to you.
This takes a long time, as do most masterpieces. This is something you make on a snowy weekend, when you want something to take up a lot of your time, and you want the oven on to help warm up the kitchen, and then you eat it while wearing a large cardigan which masks your billiousness upon eating all of its cheesy, creamy goodness. I'm halfway through "The Little Book of Hygge" and this mac and cheese recipe is truly the hyggelit-iest.
|A delicious Valentine's Day Spread - Mac N Cheese on the Right|
The key to this recipe is the mix of fancy schmancy foodie ingredients with delicious low brow comfort food tastes. And also, the M word. (Moistness. Ergggg.)
Part One: The PastaIngredients:
1 box pasta* - elbows or cavatappi
2 tbs evoo/ butter/ coconut oil/ something like that
salt and pepper
Cook to slightly less than al dente (6-8 minutes; because it's going to be baked later so will finish cooking then). Drain but keep the starchy water and set aside. Toss in some butter/ olive oil/ something like that (to keep from clumping) and seasoning then set aside.
*I have sometimes made this recipe with 1/2 whole wheat pasta, 1/2 traditional. The trick is to add the whole wheat pasta to the boiling water first, then 2-3 mintes later, add the traditional pasta.
Set oven to 375 to preheat while making the rest.
Part Two: Cracker Crumb CrustIngredients:
Couple handfuls of Cheezits
Couple handfuls of something hearty and whole wheat (Breton, akmak, etc)
Couple handfuls of Panko or Regular Breadcrumbs
Dashes of (to your preference) parsley, paprika, red pepper flakes, turmeric, coriander, garlic powder, salt, pepper
Blend in a blendy thing that you have (food processor/ mortar and pestle/ wooden spoon and countertop) until crumbed
Part Three: Hard Cheese LayersIngredients:
1 block smoked gouda, shredded
1 package of extra sharp shredded cheese
1 package of mild shredded cheddar cheese
some slices of American White cheese
Mix the shredded cheeses together. Set aside the white slices to break apart and finish off each cheese layer later.
Part Four: White Sauce (AKA Bechamel) LayerIngredients:
1 med onion and a tbs or so of some of the pasta water - make a slushy onion puree in your blendy thing
1 tub of mascarpone cheese (sour cream, cream cheese, or plain yogurt can also work, but the marscarpone is nomnomnomiest)
1 heaping tbs of chopped garlic
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
3 c whole milk
1 c starchy pasta water
salt and pepper
optional red pepper flakes (a smidge)
Over medium heat, melt butter, add garlic and cook til just slightly tender, avoid browning, then turn heat slightly lower. Steadily spoon in flour and whisk constantly to create a roux. Remove from heat, slowly add milk and whisk to fully incorporate roux into milk then add the rest of milk and the starchy water. Return to medium heat, whisking constantly. Sauce will start to thicken. Continue gently stirring for about five minutes until it bubbles up then set to low heat. Avoid scalding the milk. Add the onion puree, marscapone, and seasoning, and whisk until well incorporated into the sauce. Let stand while preparing to layer the macaroni and cheese.
Part Five: Bring It On Home
Grease a large, deep casserole dish with a little bit of something greasy. Honestly, I like a smidge of extra virgin olive oil with a pat of butter to grease the dish. Layer pasta, then cheese, then pour some sauce over. Repeat for about three-four layers. Add the cracker-crumb topping. I'll add a little bit of paprika, garlic powder and parsley to garnish on top of the cracker crumb topbecause I like that old-school style Betty Crocker 1950s way of garnishing things. It reminds me of my nana's delectable dishes. Bake the mac n cheese covered for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melty, turn heat up (around 425) for last 15 minutes uncovered to get a nice crispy top layer.