Bae Rating: 100/5. No, we aren't kidding with this rating. Look, as we mentioned before, you don't cook this Mac and Cheese for just anyone. This is made for special occasions; for ya mama, for loved ones, or on holidays. Grating cheese is a task within itself, so you don't need to cook this for a potential bae unless you are ready for to be spoken for, ok? This recipe will make someone fall in love, so if you aren't ready for that type of commitment, I suggest you steer clear.
Vibes: What did we say? Only someone dangerously in love would whip this up on a regular day. This one is for my lovers.
1 tsp of black pepper
1/2 tsp of dry mustard
1/4 tsp of cayenne
1 tsp of chili powder
1/2 tsp of garlic powder
Pinch of nutmeg
Yellow onion, halved
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
8 oz of macaroni noodles (1/2 a standard box)
1 quart of half and half
2 tbs of butter, plus extra for baking dish
2 tbs of flour
2.5 cups of sharp cheddar, shredded
1.5 cups of smoked cheddar, shredded
2.5 cups of fontina, shredded
1.5 cups of gruyere
1 cup of parmesan, shredded
1.5 cups of colby jack, cubed
1 tsp of paprika
For the Macaroni
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. The water shouldn't TASTE salty, we don't need ocean flavored noodles. And don't you dare add oil to the pot. The cheese won't stick and you'll be super sad.
- Boil the macaroni for about 5 minutes. The pasta should still have some "chew" to it. It will finish cooking in the cheese sauce, I promise.
- Rinse the pasta in cold water, and set it aside. This will stop the cooking process, and remove the extra starch, which can thicken your cheese sauce too much.
For the Cheese Sauce
- Shred ALL of your cheese EXCEPT the Colby Jack. We knoooow shredding cheese is tedious, but pre-shredded cheese is covered in wood pulp and who knows what else, and it will jack up your dish.
- Cube your colby jack and set it aside. You won't need it until the very end.
- Melt 2 tbs of butter in a pan over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Don't let it brown!
- Sprinkle in the 2 tbs of flour, and stir it until it's evenly combined with the butter. This is called a roux. Fancy, right?
- Cook the roux for about about 1-2 minutes, or until the floury taste is cooked out.
- Slowly add about 1-2 cups of the half and half while whisking the roux vigorously. Savagely, really. It will get lumpy quickly.
- Slowly add the rest of the half and half as you continue whisking. Smooth the lumps out as you go. I usually mash mine against the side of the pan with a flick of the wrist, but if you have boulders of flour, feel free to strain it and add it back to the pot.
- Let the sauce thicken. Now you have what is called a béchamel sauce. You're Drake fancy now.
- Add the halved onion and the thyme, and let the sauce simmer for a minute or two until it's thickened slightly but still creamy. If you place a spoon in it and take it out, run your finger along the back in a vertical line. If the edges of the line stay crisp like a new pair of forces, you're golden.
- Add the seasoning, and not the salt. Let the sauce simmer for another minute. Remove the onion and the thyme.
- Turn the heat to medium-low, and stir 2 cups of the sharp cheddar cheese, and wait until it's melted completely.
- Add 1 cup of the smoked cheddar, and stir until it's melted completely.
- Add 2 cups of fontina, and 1 cup of gruyere and stir until they're melted completely.
- Add half of the Parmesan cheese, and stir.
- TIME TO TASTE THE SAUCE. It should be smoky and cheesy, creamy and melty and smooth. THIS is when you add the salt. Add your salt in PINCHES and dashes. You can always add more, but you can't take it out. I usually add 1/2 a teaspoon for reference. Try not to eat all the sauce.
TIME TO ASSEMBLE
- Dump the macaroni into the cheese sauce and stir to combine.
- Put the half of the macaroni and cheese into a well-buttered dish (I have also used a small cast iron skillet for a personal serving) and sprinkle the remaining cheese EXCEPT the Parmesan on top of it.
- Pour the remaining macaroni and cheese on top.
- Poke a few of the colby jack cubes into the macaroni and cheese. These will melt and be surprise cheesy nuggets of joy as you eat.
- Mix the bread crumbs and the parmesan cheese together, and sprinkle it over the top of the macaroni and cheese.
- Bake it for about 30 minutes at 375 (or a little longer depending on how your oven heats) until the cheese is bubbling and deliciously brown and crunchy on top.
- Serve piping hot. It's lit.
- You can ABSOLUTELY use store brand cheese, as long as it comes in a block for you to shred. I used Publix brand sharp cheddar and colby jack. I also used a relatively inexpensive Parmesan cheese; they usually keep them in the back by the butter. The fontina and Gruyere are a little pricier than the others, but they're ridiculously good and worth the suffering. The smoked cheddar is crucial, but if you can't find it, sub it for muenster (also in the store brand section and delicious), or add smoked Gouda (shouts to young Dodson for the suggestion). I found the smoked cheddar in the specialty cheese section toward the deli.
- You can use whatever kind of "macaroni" you want, as long as it's a "tube" pasta and not a long, flat pasta. Cavatappi, traditional elbows, or small penne all work, especially if they have little ridges. They help hold the sauce better! Linguini or spaghetti will not work, don't be a clown.
- This macaroni and cheese is super rich. Don't try to eat it all at once, even though you'll want to. It's just as delicious the next day, if not moreso.