I've tried so many mac-n-cheeses over the last year, and I'm never really happy with them. They turn out a little too dry, or the cheese sauce breaks because the recipe doesn't take into account how sharp cheddar melts, or I see that they recommend using Velveeta. UM, NO. Sorry. That's not real cheese. This is a modification I came up with from a recipe with promise, and OH MY GOD. It's everything you could want. Cheesy, laws yes, but salty and with a touch of garlic and not a dry bite in the house (except for the crispy crust.) A little time consuming in the prep, but totally worth it. And totally meant for special occasions, because holy tons of cheese and cream.
Note: use the BEST cheese you can find. Kraft isn't the best. It's very oily and will go grainy and break OR will leave you with a lot of oil swimming in the final product. Yecch. Nothing in a can, either, or I'll come spank you.
Stoney's Redonkulous Four Cheese Macaroni
4 TBSP butter, plus 2 TBSP for later. (Can reduce the 2 to 1 if counting calories, AHAHAHAHAHA.)
4 TBSP flour
2 C cream (or half and half, I prefer cream. And extra exercise after.)
pinch of salt and pepper
8 1/2 oz. of grated Parmesan (see my note above. GREEN CAN PARM IS NOT PARM.)
1 lb. macaroni noodles, uncooked
1/2 tsp. minced garlic (I used a clove, that was just right.)
5 oz. GOOD cheddar (aged would be best, that has the least amount of oil/fat) SHREDDED
4 oz. Fontina, shredded
4 oz. Pecorino-Romano, shredded
4 oz. Parmesan (Gruyere would be a great way to change the flavor and sub for this Parmesan. It would be a different taste, good, but different.)
Boil a large pot of water, add macaroni. When just al dente, drain and run cold water over it. Mix in the 2 TBSP of butter and minced garlic. Set aside. Grease a casserole dish. Drink a glass of fabulous wine.
Grate the four cheeses into a mixing bowl, blend well and set aside. Pour another glass of wine.
In a heavy skillet, melt the 4 TBSP butter and whisk in the flour. Cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. SLOWLY add in the cream, stirring well, cook until thickened, about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the pinches of salt and pepper (you won't need much) and stir in the Parm. Try not to knock over your glass of wine, which you should probably refill, huh?
Add the bechamel sauce (look at you, you just made a French sauce!) to the pasta and stir. In your greased casserole dish (your dishwasher person will thank you later) layer a third of the pasta, and a third of the cheeses. Continue until you've topped the last bit of saucy pasta with the shredded cheese. Add breadcrumbs to the top (and I couldn't help it, I also sprinkled a little extra Parm on top) and pop into a 350 degree oven for 40 - 45 minutes. It should be browning on the edges and bubbling. You probably finished off that bottle of wine, better open another.
You HAVE to let this sit for about 5 minutes. It's hard, believe me, I know. But you'll thank me for that later when you spoon out a serving and all of the creamy sauce and cheeses melt and settle on your plate waiting for your thighs to get bigger. Then take a long walk and do some lunges. That way you can have seconds guilt free. You're welcome. Ha.
NOTE #2: I have a huge casserole and made 2 layers. I also doubled this recipe (I was feeding a crowd) with no issues, aside from my hands being tired of all of that grating. This was enough for 10 generous portions, doubled. And I mean generous. Could easily feed 12 - 15, DOUBLED. (Other wise, enough for family dinner with a little leftover for mom/the cook.)
Pretzel Rolls (I made this with my daughter and her girlfriend, so trust me when I say it's very simple. A few extra steps, but the result is outstanding. Also, we managed to knock these out while mom had many glasses wine, so that's further proof that this isn't taxing, lol.)
2 3/4 C bread flour
1 envelope of yeast (I use bulk which = 2.5 tsp. of active yeast)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 C plus 2 TBSP of very warm water
For the stove:8 C boiling water
1/4 C baking soda
2 TBSP sugar
egg for glaze
sea salt/kosher salt
Mix all four dry ingredients then slowly add 1 C of the water, kneading until it forms a ball. You might need to add a touch more water to the dough if it's not pulling away clean. (I used an extra 2 TBSP, but my kitchen was hot and dry.) Knead on a floured counter for a few minutes until elastic and smooth. Put in greased bowl, cover with CLING WRAP, then a towel. (it will dry out big time if you don't use the cling wrap.) Set in a warm spot to rise - about 30 - 35 minutes to double.
Punch down and turn out on floured surface. Put a piece of parchment on a baking sheet. (Or flour it.) Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and form balls. (NOTE: my deviation next time will be to make 10 pieces - I don't want too much doughy interior.) Put balls with plenty of space between them on the baking sheet, flattening a little as you do to keep them in place. Slash an X into the top, cover with a towel, and let double in size, about 30 minutes. Get your boiling water going and preheat your oven to 375.
Once the balls have doubled and the water is boiling, add the sugar to the water and the baking soda. This will foam up. Drop 4 of the balls bottom side down into the water for 30 seconds, then flip over so the X side is down for another 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 4 rolls. Brush tops with beaten egg and sprinkle sea salt on them.
Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until very golden, almost brown. Remove to cooling rack for 10 minutes and dive in.
And be prepared to double this recipe, these will disappear fast.