I pride myself in a few particular recipes and this is one of them. I would like to think I also have a steady fan base for this, as I have friends request me to make it all the time. In fact, during college we would have nights we dubbed “Macaroni and Cheese Nights” where I would make the mac, and our friend Trisha would bring the BBQ ribs. One of my best friends, Katie, whom I have mentioned, came to my house with Trisha for one of these nights where we meet for the first time.
|Katie’s first time having my Mac and Cheese
She told me later on that Trisha had asked her “Hey my friend is having a macaroni and cheese party at her house. Do you want to come?” and right then and there, when she said “YES I want to come” she knew we would be lifelong friends. And we will be.
|Trisha, the Mac, and the Ribs
|The Macaroni and Cheese crew!
And so, these nights allowed me much practice with the types of cheeses I wanted to use. How much cream. The spice… everything. And to be honest, I still tinker with it all the time. But the basics are there. So for those of you who ask me all the time “How to you make your macaroni and cheese?” well… here it is :)
1 lb normal sized macaroni noodles (do not use mini… they don’t soak up the cheese sauce as well)
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup 2 % milk
3 tbs flour
1 stick butter
6 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese
8 ounces Cheddar cheese
8 ounces Gruyere cheese
8 ounces Gouda cheese
1 whole onion
garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste (you can also add crushed garlic if you like)
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp cayenne pepper if you want a spicy kick
Before we begin, I cannot stress this enough! 2 things, heavy whipping cream is NOT the same as half and half. Do not use 1 quart of half and half instead. Trust me on this. Also, if you aren’t going to buy good cheese, then don’t bother making this recipe. There is no point to purchasing cheap cheddar… you might as well make Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. This mac and cheese is for the real cheese lover.
|White Cheddar, Gruyere, and Gouda. And the shaved Parmesan. All in all, the cheese cost 23 dollars.
To start, get those noodles cooking! Get a large pot, fill it with water. Once it starts boiling, add a little olive oil so the noodles don’t stick, and pour in the pasta. Stir. Watch the noodles; you want to get them JUST underdone, as they are going to bake in the oven a bit longer. After the noodles start cooking, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Make sure to keep an eye on them, and drain them once ready.
Next, get a large, shallow pot on the stove on medium high heat. Add the stick of butter. Once melted, reduce the heat to medium and add the flour. You want to make a carmely colored rue that will thicken your sauce. Make sure you stir all the flour into the butter, so you get this light brown buttery paste. You want to make sure the flour is cooked so you don’t end up with a raw flour taste in your dish.
Once the rue has set, add the heaving whipping cream, 2% milk, and half and half. Stir all ingredients together, making sure the rue is fully incorporated into the milk. Stir this on medium heat, until you start to see the mixture boiling. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium low. You want to make sure that the sauce starts to thicken. At this time, I like to add about 1tbs garlic powder and pepper. I salt the sauce at the end. It may not need salt because of the salt in the cheese.
Next, dice up your Cheedar and Gouda. Grate the Gruyere. Add them to the cream mixture once it has thickened a bit. You should see the sauce sticking to the sides of the pot and not dripping back down or thinning out. This means its ready for the cheese!
At this point, its a patient waiting game. Watch the mixture, keeping it at a medium low heat, and stirring occasionally. If it starts to boil, turn it down. We do not want the bottom to burn! But the mixture should always remain hot, allowing the cheese to melt.
While you are waiting for the sauce to all meld together, you can slice the onion. Make sure you slice it into rounds, no more than a 1/4 inch thick (I would go even a little smaller).
You can also put your noodles in your baking dish. The dish should we large enough that there is about 1/2 an inch of room at the top once the noodles have been placed inside.
Once the sauce is done, and EVERYTHING is melted inside, taste it to see how the spice level is. If you like lots of pepper, add some more. If you think it needs salt, add a pinch. Right now would be the moment to add the cayenne if you are choosing to put it in. Just make sure you taste and stir the spices in thoroughly. Once you go overboard, there is no turning back. When the sauce is sufficient to your spice level, pour it over the noodles.
Mix the noodles and sauce around so every noodles is coasted, including their hollow centers. Next, take the onions and separate the rounds with your fingers. Sprinkle the onions on the top of the noodles and sauce.
|Make sure to get EVERY corner!
The onion adds intense flavor to the cheese dish. Plus, it adds a sweet oniony crispiness on top once this is baked. If you are hesitant, just trust me. It is so good! The next step is to sprinkle the Parmesan cheese shavings all over the top of the dish. This will also melt and give it a crispy, cheesy, bubbly top. YUM!
Once the dish is sufficiently coated, and your oven has preheated to 400 degrees, place it in the oven for 45 minutes. You want to make sure the top is brown and golden and bubbly and cheesy and everything delicious. If you need more time, leave it in there. You WANT this crust!
The only thing left to do is grab a bowl and get to grubbing. Make sure to get some oniony top, some crusty cheese, and some gooey noodles.
NOTE: This is a lot of macaroni and cheese. BUT this freezes well. Make sure you store it properly, and before you reheat it, add a little milk. I also suggest reheating it in the oven for 20 minutes in an oven safe dish. Microwaving cream based products tends to separate fats and makes something creamy into something oily.
DOUBLE NOTE: You can also jazz up the leftovers to keep this the gift that keeps on giving. If you want some spice, add some jalapenos. Got a hankering for bacon? Throw it on there! Like I say, tinker with it and find out what you like.