As the extremely proud aunt of a fantastic three-year-old, I have been around for quite a few meals of macaroni and cheese the past several years.
I definitely can’t argue with her taste in good food. Joey makes fun of me for ordering mac and cheese regularly, and while my niece’s dish of choice is generally a cup of the single-serving microwaveable kind, I tend to opt for a more grown up version.
After I recently saw a recipe online for a batch that claimed to be the “world’s best” and featured three types of cheese, I decided to forgo any boxes of Kraft and try my own version from scratch.
I will warn you, before we even launch into this, that this makes an absolutely huge dish of macaroni and cheese. I would highly recommend halving or even quartering the recipe if you aren’t feeding a crowd or don’t want a lot of leftovers.
The recipe I used comes from the blog “Mom on Timeout.” You can find the original post at https://www.momontimeout.com/best-homemade-baked-mac-and-cheese-recipe/. I ended up adding extra pasta to my version, because it was way too soupy for my tastes. I also added garlic powder and extra paprika.
Over-the-Top Macaroni and Cheese
- 24 ounces elbow macaroni cooked al dente
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup flour
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 cups sharp cheddar shredded
- 2 cups gruyere shredded
- 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 1/2 cup parmesan shredded
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a three- or four-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
- While the pasta cooks, combine the shredded cheddar and Gruyere in a large bowl and set it aside.
- When the pasta is finished and drained, add it to another bowl and drizzle it with the olive oil and mix to combine. Set it aside.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt six tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and continue to stir for one minute. Whisk in the milk and heavy cream until the mixture is smooth. Continue stirring regularly until small bubbles start to form on the surface. Whisk in the salt, pepper and garlic powder and continue cooking, stirring regularly, for about two more minutes. Reserve two cups of the combined cheddar and gruyere, and add the rest to the pot, a handful at a time, whisking in between additions until the sauce is smooth. Once all of the cheese is melted into the sauce, add the pasta. Stir to fully coat the pasta and dump half of it into the prepared baking dish.
- Add the rest of the cheddar and gruyere in an even layer and then top with the rest of the macaroni mixture.
- In a bowl, combine the panko, parmesan, four tablespoons melted butter and paprika, and stir until all of the bread crumbs are moistened.
- Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on the top of the dish and bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is browned and the cheese is bubbling.
This was so rich and really delicious, and while gruyere is not a cheap cheese to buy, it really did add some complex flavors I wouldn’t have been able to get with just the sharp cheddar.
Two things I would add as tips are, first, you might want to bake this on a baking sheet in case it spills over. My baking dish was just over three quarts in size, and I could barely fit the entire batch into it.
Second, if you want the best results, shred the cheddar and gruyere yourself. Pre-packaged shredded cheese often doesn’t melt as easily because of additives put in to keep it from clumping together.
I was amazed at the size of this batch of macaroni and cheese by the time I was done. I ended up giving away quite a few helpings so that it would all get eaten.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy this one with my niece. We’ll have to have a mac and cheese date sometime soon; although, I suspect that my use of “fancy” cheese won’t impress her too much and with her three-year-old appetite, we’re bound to have a lot of leftovers.
This piece first appeared in print on April 22, 2021.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.