The Mac & Cheese that will CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

Mac and Cheese.  Ahhhh, (sigh.)  A good sigh of course.  I mean, come on.  Is there anyone that doesn’t love it?  If you know someone that doesn’t…you should de-friend them immediately.  I’m serious.  You don’t need that weird person in your life.  Or that negativity.  Ok I’m kidding.  (No I’m not.)  I kinda feel the same way about people that put cottage cheese in their lasagna.  It’s wrong.  Just don’t do it.

This is by far the most amazing, insanely delicious, better than ANY RESTAURANT you will ever go to Mac & Cheese.  I promise.  You’ll never look back.  It’s the holy grail of Mac & Cheese’s.  There will never be another like this.  It’s fancy, it’s creamy, it’s flavorful, it’s…it’s…(sigh again) so many things.  It’s everything.

In all honesty, I’ve eaten at some pretty incredible restaurants and every time I order Mac & Cheese as a side dish my husband and I always say the same thing to each other…”mine tastes better.”  EVERY.  TIME.  I keep waiting.  Waiting for that life changing Mac & Cheese from a restaurant.  It hasn’t happened yet.  Ever since I started making this years ago, my hopes have gone down.  Like waayyy down.  I’m yelling timber for real.  But that’s ok!  Cuz I make it myself yo’.  And it is damn good!  If you want to wow your guests, make this!  If you want to impress your new flame, make this!  He or she will take you home to meet mother immediately.

Now I could never come up with something like this by myself.  I wish I was that good.  Ina Garten (last sigh) is the queen of yumminess.  That woman knows her stuff when it comes to food.  I adapted this recipe from her.  I have tweaked it a bit to make it BETTER.  (She puts tomatoes on hers….ewwwww.) That’s wrong too.  Don’t do that either.  Ina failed me here.  I love tomatoes.  But NOT on my Mac & Cheese. I like to keep it classic with a fancy twist!

EVERY time I make this it comes out perfect.  It’s great too because you can make it ahead of time. This is NOT a “whip it up” when you come home from work type of dish.  It’s time consuming.  But OMG is it worth it.  I’ve never met someone who didn’t go totally crazy when they tried this.

WARNING:  This is not a cheap dish.  The cheese alone will cost you around $15-20 depending on if you have to buy a chunk already wrapped or cheaper if you can get cut to exact weight behind deli counter.  However it makes enough to feed a family and stays good for days in the fridge.  If you want to splurge one day….it’s SO WORTH IT.  

Alright here it goes…let’s start with the breadcrumb topping.

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Start with 5 pieces of plain ole’ white sandwich bread.  Wonder, Kroger brand, whatever.  Remove the crusts and place in a food processor.  Pulse until crumbs form.  (Don’t try to save calories and use whole wheat or whole grain bread.  Just don’t.  There is nothing healthy about this dish anyways so don’t fret.)
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This is what it will look like.  Genius I know.  Dump it into a bowl and set it aside for later.
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Bring a large SALTED pot of water to a boil. Cavatappi are the best noodles to use for this dish.  They have ridges and hold the sauce really well.  If you can’t find Cavatappi try penne or another larger noodle that has ridges to it.  ***Only cook to al-dente the noodles will cook more in the oven!***
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Grate 12oz. of Gruyere Cheese and 8oz. Extra Sharp White Cheddar.  I buy Boars Head Gruyere.  It’s like a mild swiss.  I don’t really like swiss…but when these two cheese’s come together, it’s MAGIC.  Sometimes the ESWC is called something else if you are in a fancy cheese department.  Like mine was called “Flagship Cheddar” and was aged for a year.  Or another time I bought it and it was called “Old English Cheddar.”  VERY IMPORTANT that it is extra sharp.  Tilamook makes a great one but the stores by me do not carry it anymore.  If you are not sure ask someone and ASK for a sample.  ***If you mess up the cheese you mess up the whole dish***
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Heat the milk…1 Quart (4 Cups) of Whole Milk, but don’t let it boil.

 

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Melt 6 Tablespoons of UNSALTED Butter over low heat.  Add the flour and continue to cook over low heat for 2 minutes while stirring with a whisk.
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While whisking, gradually add the hot milk until it is all combined.  Whisk it really good, you don’t want there to be any flour clumps.
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It only takes a couple minutes until all of the milk is combined.  Make sure to keep whisking.  Ina says to cook it for a minute or 2 more until thickened and smooth.  This is where I have found her to be wrong again…lol.  You know because I’m the expert chef and all.  I have made this dish in several different kitchens and stoves.  It has NEVER taken 1 to 2 minutes to thicken.  I promise you it takes at least 7-10 minutes over a medium low heat.  Let it sit for a minute, then whisk again. See how it looks.  It should be smooth but definitely thicker than before.  Almost like if you were making a Béchamel Sauce.  *** If’s it’s still super runny, keep it on longer and keep whisking.***    
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It’s hard to tell but this was the best I could do.  It should resemble this when finished.
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Now you are ready to add the cheese and spices!  Turn off the heat.  Add the Gruyere and Extra Sharp White Cheddar.  Give it a good stir until combined.  
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NUTMEG!  This right here is one of the most important components in the whole dish.  It gives you that feeling like, “hmmmm what is that?”  Use a whole fresh nutmeg.  Don’t use already ground.  You can buy them down the spice aisle.  Ina says to use a pinch.  No, no.  Grate almost 3/4 of a whole nutmeg.  It’s not overpowering whatsoever.  A cheese grater will work for this as well if you don’t have a Microplane Zester like I do.  But you should totally get one because I’ve had this thing for 7 years and use at least 5 times a week.  They are awesome!  
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Add 1 Tablespoon of salt and 1/2 Teaspoon black pepper.  Stir.  
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Strain your noodles and add to the cheese mixture.  
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Pour it all into a 9×13 baking dish or individual ramekins.  I usually like to use ramekins or au gratin dishes so everyone has there own and they all get some of the yummy crust.   
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Now take those breadcrumbs you pulsed earlier and combine them with 2 Tablespoons of melted butter.  (Healthy right?) Stir and kind of mash it to combine.  
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Sprinkle all of the breadcrumbs over the top!  Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or so until bubbly and golden on top.  
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Brace yourselves.  (I made some in a ramekin as well.)  
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Heaven in your mouth.
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My hot hubby loves it.  

Enjoy!!!!

Time Saving Tip: Grate the cheese in advance and store in a ziplock bag!!  Also, the breadcrumbs! Just store in an airtight container.

RECIPE: 

Ingredients

Kosher salt
1 pound cavatappi
1 quart whole milk milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp White Cheddar, grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes.  Cook to al dente.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Raise heat to medium low and while whisking, add the hot milk and cook 7-10 until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

(This recipe has been adapted from Ina Garten)

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