Ultimate Mac And Cheese

I have been searching for the ultimate recipe for mac and cheese for years. I had a boyfriend in university whose mother made a really unique drier version - not saucy - where the cheese stuck in clumps to the noodles. It sounds weird, but it was absolutely delicious. I never could get her to show me how she made it. Oh well.

Over countless trials, I find I like one that is not too saucy and not too dry. But finding that happy medium isn't easy. The cheese is also a problem. Even when you buy the best quality, it can melt in an odd way that isn't smooth and creamy.  The recipes that seem most successful at a smooth sauce seem to have Velveeta or American cheese in them and I just do not want to use those products. I want real quality cheese. 

Recently I shared a recipe for Mac and Cheese Pasta Prima Very by Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman. It came out nice and creamy, but really wasn't the traditional Mac and Cheese I hope to recreate.  Then I found a recipe call Ultimate Mac and Cheese on the Sunset website. It looked promising - two fab cheeses, cream, wine and fresh sourdough breadcrumbs. My mouth was water just reading the list of ingredients.  I decided to give it a try. 

I had to switch
up the cheese. I had the gouda, but couldn't find any Gruyere, so subbed Provolone. It worked well. I also wanted to use a pasta I am madly in love with - Trecce Del 'Orto (mine was Western Family brand).  The image above of the finished dish just doesn't capture the tri-colors, but they are there. The colors are,  more muted after cooking of course, but they still add a visual appeal for me.  Lastly, I had honey Dijon instead of regular, so subbed coarse Dijon mustard. It worked well.  

My husband is not a big mac and cheese fan, but ate a good size serving.  I thought it tasted great. Still not 100% the creamier texture I would like, but gooey with cheese. I just don't want to add Cheez-Whiz, Velveeta or American cheese, and so far that seems the only way to be really creamy. What I personally loved the best in this recipe is the topping made from fresh sour dough bread crumbs, butter and chives. YUM!

Love Trecce Del 'Orto Pasta

Note - this isn't a diet recipe. They list each serving at a whopping 586 calories, but don't share how many servings this dish is meant to be. So eat at your own risk.

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Ultimate Mac And Cheese

Ingredients -

8 oz                Cavatappi, macaroni, or other tube-shaped pasta
1/2 tsp            Coarse salt, plus more for cooking pasta
3 1/2 T            Butter
1/2 C               Finely chopped shallots
2 T                  All-purpose flour
1 1/4 C           Dry white wine
2/3 C              Heavy whipping cream
7 oz                Gruyère, grated
3 oz                Gouda, grated
2 T + 1 tsp.     Minced fresh chives
1 T                 Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp            Cayenne
1/8 tsp            Freshly ground nutmeg
4 oz                Crusty sourdough bread (about 1/4 loaf), torn into large pieces


Preheat oven to 400°. Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of boiling, well-salted water until tender to the bite, 7 to 12 minutes. Drain, but do not rinse.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tbsp. butter. Add shallots and cook until light golden, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle shallot-butter mixture with flour; cook, stirring often, 1 minute. Add wine and stir, picking up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add cream and stir well. Sprinkle in cheeses, one large handful at a time, stirring until each handful is mostly melted before adding the next. Stir in 2 tbsp. chives, mustard, 1/4 tsp. salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Stir cooked pasta into cheese mixture, then pour all into a 2-qt. baking dish.

In a food processor, pulse bread with remaining 1 1/2 tbsp. butter, 1 tsp. chives, and 1/4 tsp. salt until coarse bread crumbs form. Sprinkle bread crumbs over pasta and cheese and bake until top is browned and cheese is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve.