Grown Up Mac and Cheese

Put that blue box down.  I know mac and cheese is a comfort food.  Heck, I confess to sneaking a taste of the mac and cheese I used to make for Mr16 and reveling in the orange cheesy wonderfulness.  But you’re a grown up now and you deserve a grown up mac and cheese! 

Over the years, through low carb diets and weight that accumulated too easily, mac and cheese disappeared from the menu here at our house.  Then, I came across THIS recipe in the April 2011 Food and Wine magazine!  A recipe that takes mac and cheese to a level Velveeta and the blue box never dreamed possible.  OMGosh the savory cheesy fabulosity of this completely stove-top mac and cheese–topped with an uber-flavor-y cheese crisp! 

The ingredients are mostly as you would expect:

  • 8 oz coarsely shredded cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (Look for it in the spice aisle–the smoky flavor it gives to this mac and cheese is amazing!)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 ounces fontina, coursely shredded  (I didn’t have fontina, so used gruyere instead–yummy!)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone  (Can substitute cream cheese.)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg  (Optional–nutmeg is not in the original recipe, but I really like a bit of nutmeg in a cheese sauce.)
  • 1 package small macaroni  (The original recipe asked for 8 oz elbow mac.  I used a 13 oz package of rotini and had plenty of sauce.)

Start water for your pasta and cook according to package directions.

Sprinkle half of the cheddar onto an extra large non-stick skillet in four 4-inch mounds.  Cook over moderate heat until cheese is lacy and golden, about 4 minutes.  (Cook in batches, if needed.)

Using a flexible spatula, carefully flip each crisp and cook until golden, about 1 minute.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and break into large pieces.  (Have a knife ready to help scrape the crisp off the spatula when you flip them.)

In a very large sauce pan, melt butter. 

Whisk in the flour and paprika, cook over moderate heat until bubbly, about 2 minutes.

Add milk and whisk until smooth.  Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes.

 Stir in remaining cheddar and fontina (gruyere).  Cook over low heat until melted and smooth.

 Remove from heat and stir in mascarpone.  Season with salt and nutmeg.

Add sauce to the drained pasta and cook over low heat until hot and bubbling, about 2 minutes. 

Spoon into bowls, top with a cheese crisp and prepared to be comforted!

Wow was this fabulously yummy!  Creamy, smoky, rich, and cheesy–a depth of flavor perfectly complimented by the cheese crisp.  A bit more effort than the blue box, but sooo worth it!  I think the sauce by itself would be a delicious fondue-esque dip for veggies or could be used as a veggie sauce for a side dish–I think cauliflower would be killer-yummy with this cheese sauce!

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Filed under dinner, recipe, side dish, Vegetarian

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