Everyone has grown up with mac ‘n’ cheese. The blue box with the orange dinosaur, or maybe your family was fancy and used that yellow block of self-proclaimed “processed cheese product.” Either way, there comes a moment when you realize that there is so much more to this dish. It’s like a rite of passage into adulthood—when you are finally able to serve your favorite childhood meal to your adult friends with no sense of shame.
I recently started working at a cheese magazine. Yeah, there is such a thing. And it’s exactly what you would think: boxes of cheese arriving at our door daily, cheese tastings as a required part of your job, extra cheese being handed out to everyone. And now with more cheese than I know what to do with (just kidding, I know exactly what to do with it), I have been perfecting my family’s mac ‘n’ cheese recipe. Seriously, this recipe is the culmination of years of family tradition, hours of free-time, and over $200 of cheese in my refrigerator.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Ok, so I know I say cheddar and Parmesan. But really, do whatever cheeses you want. I think I did an aged cheddar with asiago. Follow your tastebuds.
1 lb uncooked elbow macaroni
¾ cup butter
6 Tbsp flour
5 cups whole milk
6¾ cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
½ cups grated Parmesan
½ tsp nutmeg
Salt and ground black pepper
1½ cups bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 350oF.
Cook macaroni until al dante. Drain well and transfer to another bowl, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
Add ½ cup butter to the now-empty pot. Reduce heat to medium and heat until butter is melted. Stir in flour. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk and heat to a boil, continuing to stir. Cook for another 3 minutes, or until mixture is thickened and smooth, stirring occasionally. Stir in 6 cups cheddar cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, until cheeses are melted, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat.
Combine cheese mixture, macaroni, and reserved cooking water together.
Melt remaining ¼ cup butter. Mix together melted butter, bread crumbs, ¾ cup cheddar cheese, and ¼ cup Parmesan.
Pour macaroni mixture into a greased pan. Top with bread crumb mixture. Cook for 20 minutes, until the top is a beautiful golden brown.