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.
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!