Nothing comes close to the delicious cheesy goodness of homemade mac and cheese! This is a recipe I get asked about all the time. I have made mac and cheese numerous of times and feel as though this recipe is the best one yet. Mac and cheese is an all time classic comfort food that can be made in so many different ways with endless possibilities!
Whether you opt for more of a classic sharp cheddar or desire to add more of a bite with a twist, you can’t go wrong with your choices of cheeses. Other than cheddar there are multiple cheeses to choose from such as: Parmesan cheese, Mozzarella, Pepper Jack, smoked Gouda, Fontina, Gruyere, Emmentaler, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano Reggiano, Feta, and Brie. For the best creamy texture always shred your own cheese instead of using prepackaged cheese. The packaged cheeses have a powdery substance that helps the cheese stay separated in the packaging, which is not so great for a creamy sauce.
Now lets talk about your choices on pasta. Traditional mac and cheese is elbow pasta but with endless choices of pasta out there why not try others. On this particular day I had elbow on hand. A good tip to follow when choosing a pasta is to stick with ones that have plenty of surface area with nooks and crannies to hold the yummy creamy cheese goodness, such as shells, farfalle also known as bowtie pasta, ziti, penne and rigatoni are just to name a few.
- 1 pound elbow pasta or any other pasta
- 1/4 cup salted butter
- 1/4 all purpose flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups half and half
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup cheddar cheese (Optional-for topping at the end or substitute for panko crumbs)
- 1 cup pepper jack cheese
- Mild cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup gouda cheese
- 1 tbsp oregano (optional)
- pinch of red pepper flakes & parsley for garnish (optional)
- 1 1/2 cup of italian panko topping & 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
Before starting the sauce, start with a pot of boiling water. Salt water generously for good pasta flavor. Cook pasta 1-2 less than the package recommendation for an al dente pasta.
sauce: The Roux
- Preheat oven to 375*
- On medium high heat melt the butter and add the flour in a deep sauce pot. Cook for about a minute making sure not to brown the flour.
- Slowly whisk in heavy cream and half & half. Continue cooking and whisking until bubbles start to form on top; sauce starts to thicken.
- Add salt & pepper to taste and turn heat down.
- whisk in each cheese one at a time making sure it is completely blended into sauce. Do not over cook. Just melt cheese into sauce.
- Once pasta is cooked & drained mix sauce and pasta together and add to a casserole baking dish. Place into oven for 25-30min.
- After 30mim add more cheddar cheese on top & cook for another 8-10min.
- If choose to use Italian panko, combine 1 1/2 cup panko, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, 3-4 tablespoons of melted butter in a span and toast. Sprinkle over the pasta and cook on broil for 2-3 min until browned. Keep a close eye! Don’t burn.
- Before serving add red pepper flakes & parsley for garnishing (optional).
Enjoy and SAVOR every bite!
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