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The Ultimate Mac and Cheese


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I call this the ultimate because of the sauce — it's perfectly smooth and creamy, just the way I like it. Just remember what Laura Werlin says when it comes to cheese: an infinite number of cheeses can go into your mac and cheese, but what matters is the results you're looking for. Choose the cheeses that will give you those results.

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound cavatappi pasta, cooked to package instructions
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 Cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 Teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 Cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 Cups shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 4 Cups shredded fontina
  • 1/2 Cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese

Servings8

Calories Per Serving905

Folate equivalent (total)64µg16%

Riboflavin (B2)0.6mg37.1%


    • 1 3/4 cups small elbow macaroni
    • 1 1/4 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese (5 oz) -- cubed
    • 2 2/3 tablespoons flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 1/3 cups half and half
    • 1 1/3 cups whipping cream
    • 2/3 cup sour cream
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 1 1/4 cups packed extra-sharp cheese (5 oz) -- grated
    1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly butter 9x13x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook macaroni in lg saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta. Transfer to prepared dish. Mix in cubed cheese. Whisk flour, salt, mustard, black pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg in medium bowl until no lumps remain. Gradually whisk in half and half, then whipping cream and sour cream. Add eggs and Worcestershire sauce whisk to blend. Pour over macaroni mixture stir to blend. Sprinkle grated cheese over. Bake macaroni and cheese until just set around edges but sauce is still liquid in center, about 25 mins. Remove from oven let stand 10 mins to thicken slightly (sauce will be creamy). Makes 10-12 side-dish servings. About 4 as main course.

    Step 01

    Photo courtesy of Chef Antonio Romano

    In a thermomix jug, drop the butter, the buttermilk and flour, and cook for 20 min at 90° on speed 2.

    Chef tips: if you don’t have a thermomix, make a roux with butter and flour, add the buttermilk and the cheese, and cook until thick.


    Regarding cheese

    For the ultimate mac and cheese, start with whole chunks of cheese&hellip not that pre-packaged, pre-grated stuff.

    Pre-shredded cheese contains anti-caking agents, so the grated shards won&rsquot stick together in the package. Fine if your using them for an omelette, but they&rsquoll make your cheese sauce grainy. Buy a few real chunks of cheese and grate them yourself.

    &ldquoParmesan&rdquo vs. Parmegiano Reggiano

    I swear I didn&rsquot used to be a cheese snob&hellip until I read this&hellip Many industrial produced &ldquoparmesans&rdquo have fillers and anti-clumping agents made from wood pulp. Real Parmegiano Reggiano doesn&rsquot have any fillers. It&rsquos real cheese and its aged longer than other wannabes. In fact, several years ago I had a sampling of parmigiano reggiano that had been aged from 1-5 years &mdash you could see and taste the difference. To check for authenticity, look for a wedge that includes the outside rind. The cheese producers have labeled their wheels with &ldquoParmigiano Reggiano&rdquo stamped in little pin pricks all around the perimeter. If you see that &ndash it&rsquos the REAL DEAL

    Other cheeses for 3 cheese mac and cheese

    In addition to Parmegiano Reggiano, we&rsquore also using sharp white cheddar and real Jarlsberg. The white cheddar gives a nice tangy lushness to the sauce, but the Jarlsberg (recommended by Poole&rsquos) is the standout in this dish and elevates this old fashioned mac and cheese, giving it a sophisticated flavor. This is restaurant quality.

    Best tools for grating cheese

    I recommend a traditional box grater for grating the cheese. Use the larger holes for the Cheddar and Jarlsberg and the finer grates for the harder Parmigiano Reggiano. It only takes 1-2 minutes to do this by hand.


    Which kind of pasta should I use for mac ‘n cheese?

    I used medium shells, but by all means, use whichever noodle you like best.

    Choose pasta that’s on the medium to small side (larger noodles tend to break and lose their shape). Pick a shape that has lots of nooks and crannies to trap all that glorious sauce. Elbows, rotini, and radiatore all work great.


    5. Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

    If I had to pick a favourite mac and cheese it would 100% include smoked gouda. It adds a whole new flavour dimension that sends me into comfort food heaven. Try Compelled to Cook's Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese to see what I'm talking about.


    The Mac 'n' Cheese Recipe You've Been Waiting For

    Everyone has their weaknesses &mdash mine happens to be mac and cheese.

    I've ordered it at hip, New York restaurants, and I've made it from a box. Sometimes it's excellent, but most of the time it disappoints. So, I embarked on a quest for the perfect homemade macaroni and cheese &mdash a version that mimicked the creaminess of the boxed version, but with much better flavor and a more complex texture. After dozens of failed attempts, I stumbled upon the secret ingredient, the one I, as a professionally trained cook and food editor, vowed to never admit to, until now&hellip

    I know what you're thinking, but if an ingredient or technique makes a dish taste better then I am all for it. The key lies in how much Velveeta you use &mdash you certainly don't want it to overpower the dish. I came up with a recipe that you can make for your family, serve to guests, take to potlucks. I promise you, people will go nuts for it. But don't mention the V-word. It'll be our little secret.

    The Ultimate Mac 'n' Cheese
    Serves: 6 to 8 main-dish servings or 10 to 12 side-dish servings

    Ingredients:
    &bull 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    &bull 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    &bull 3 cups whole milk
    &bull 2 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
    &bull 8 ounces Velveeta, cut into small cubes
    &bull 8 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (do NOT use pre-shredded)
    &bull 4 ounces gouda, fontina, or gruyère, coarsely grated
    &bull 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
    &bull 1 pound elbow macaroni
    &bull 4 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional)

    Topping:
    &bull 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
    &bull 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
    &bull 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

    Directions:
    1. Heat medium covered saucepot of salted water to boiling on high. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    2. In a large saucepot, melt butter on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle in flour. Cook 1 minute or until well combined, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low.
    3. While whisking, slowly drizzle milk into pot (really, really slowly, it should take about 3 minutes to pour in all the milk). At first, the mixture will be really pasty and hard to whisk, but power through. Stop pouring occasionally to whisk away all lumps and whisk around edges. This is the key to a smooth base for your cheese sauce. Add garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
    4. Heat sauce to simmering on medium heat, whisking frequently and scraping bottom and edges of pot, making sure sauce isn't sticking. Let simmer 1 minute or until thickened, whisking constantly.
    5. By the handful, add cheeses to sauce, stirring and waiting until cheese melts before adding next handful. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, if desired. The sauce should be a smidgen saltier than you think it should be because when you eat it with the bland macaroni, the flavor will balance out. Remove and discard garlic cloves.
    6. Add macaroni to boiling water. Cook for half the time the label directs drain well and stir into cheese sauce. Transfer to 3-quart baking dish. Top with tomato slices, if using.
    7. In med. bowl, stir together ingredients for Topping. Sprinkle over tomatoes. Bake macaroni and cheese 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and crumbs are golden brown. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving.

    Now this is my version of the ultimate mac and cheese, but if "ultimate" to you means stovetop only, follow this same recipe, just decrease the milk by 3/4 of a cup, cook the macaroni until it's al dente, and omit the topping.

    FESS US: Got any big, bad secret ingredients up your sleeve?

    Sherry Rujikarn is the assistant food editor in the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen.


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    Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese

    This baked Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese has a creamy, silky, rich cheese sauce that’s perfectly balanced by a crisp and crunchy homemade breadcrumb topping. Comfort food perfection!

    Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Cook: 50 minutes

    Tessa's Recipe Rundown.

    Taste: Cheesy, nutty, buttery, and all around just oozing with savory flavors.
    Texture: This is the best part of mac & cheese right? The cheese sauce is oh so rich, thick, silky, and creamy, the pasta is al dente, and the breadcrumb topping is crisp and crunchy.
    Ease: Making cheese sauce from scratch can be a little intimidating and possibly weird if you’re not used to making a roux but just watch the video to see it’s actually pretty easy!
    Appearance: B-e-a-u-tiful.
    Pros: Ultimate comfort food recipe.
    Cons: Dirties quite a few dishes and is not an everyday indulgence.
    Would I make this again? Absolutely.

    According to my parents, I was a pretty picky eater as a little kid. Apparently when I was a toddler the only things I liked to eat were pears, grilled cheese, and macaroni and cheese. At least I liked one fruit? It’s funny because I rarely eat pears anymore. Actually, I rarely eat grilled cheese or macaroni and cheese either. I decided I needed to remedy this by making my ultimate version of macaroni and cheese because really, what’s better than carbs loaded with a creamy cheese sauce and topped with more carbs in the form of breadcrumbs?? Not much. I even made a video to show you how to make macaroni and cheese from scratch because this beats the boxed version by miles, and I grew up eating to boxed version. My favorite part was squeezing the ultra-yellow cheese out of the foil packet. Now that kind of grosses me out.

    This recipe replaces that fake artificial cheese with high-quality sharp cheddar cheese and gruyere cheese. Don’t skimp here because really, what’s macaroni and cheese without great cheese?? This recipe is straightforward and simple but there are so many ways you can switch things up. Add in jalapeno peppers or green chiles and bacon crumbles. Use smoked cheddar cheese. Add in lobster, shredded pork, or sausage. Add in caramelized onions. Top with Sriracha or chipotle Tabasco sauce. The options are endless.


    Ultimate macaroni cheese

    Making macaroni cheese is a bit of a juggling act, so it’s easier if you get a few things prepared ahead. Finely grate all the cheeses, keeping them separate. Tear the bread into pieces and whizz in a food processor to coarse crumbs. Mix 25g of the cheddar and one-third of the parmesan into the breadcrumbs. Toss the rest of the cheeses together and set aside. Thickly slice the tomatoes. Butter a dish, about 30 x 20 x 5.5cm. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

    Put a pan of water on to boil. Tip the macaroni into the boiling water, stir and bring it back to the boil. Simmer for 8 mins, or cook according to pack instructions, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking. While this is cooking, start the sauce.

    Warm the milk in a jug in the microwave (or in a pan). Melt the butter in a pan (big enough to take the macaroni as well), then stir in the flour. Cook for 1 min, stirring, then take off the heat. Pour in one-third of the warm milk and beat well with a wooden spoon until smooth – it is quite thick at this stage. Add another third – it may go a bit lumpy, but keep beating well and it will go smooth again. Pour in the final third of milk and keep beating until smooth.

    When the macaroni is done, tip it into a colander and put it briefly under very hot running water to keep it separate. Drain. Put the pan of sauce back on the heat and cook, stirring, until thickened and smooth. Lower the heat and simmer for about 4 mins until glossy, stirring every now and then. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and mustard, then beat in 5 tbsp milk, or enough to give a slack coating consistency. Taste and season (you shouldn’t need much salt). If the macaroni is sticking at all, put it under the hot tap again, then stir to separate. Drain well, then gently mix it into the sauce and stir to coat completely. If necessary, adjust the consistency again with milk. There should be enough sauce to coat the macaroni thickly and liberally.

    Tip the macaroni cheese into the buttered dish, scatter over the cheesy crumbs and lay the tomatoes casually over the top. Heat through in the oven for 12-15 mins until beginning to bubble around the edges. Grill for 3-5 mins to brown the crumbs. Let it all settle for 1-2 mins, then serve while still piping hot.