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Four Cheese Mac and Cheese

The perfect Mac and Cheese recipe finally exists! I’ve eaten so many versions of Mac and Cheese in my lifetime and it’s my favorite comfort food. This is my take: using 4 cheeses. That’s right.

Here are the 4 cheeses and their flavor profiles:

  • Sharp Cheddar: sharp, pungent, slightly, earthy, gives a yellow/orange color
  • Smoked Gouda: nutty, sweet and salty, smokey
  • Fontina: earthy, nutty, sweet, creamy
  • Gruyere: slightly nutty, salty

If you don’t want a mac and cheese that is too strong, try adding a more mild cheese like havarti or mozzarella in place of some of the more nutty and sharp cheeses.

There are two main methods for making Mac and Cheese. It can be made the Southern way which is custard style and it’s all baked and usually more sliceable. The other way which we follow here is by maxing a roux. Once you learn how to make mac and cheese, you can make bechamel which now means you can make your own Alfredo sauce!

Of course, you can keep this just plain, old mac and cheese or you can make it fancy with chopped bacon. Feel free to add any toppings and make it your own!

Some other tips when making mac and cheese:

  • If you plan to bake it after, cook your past slightly below al dente or about 6 minutes. If you had mushy mac and cheese before, you’ll understand why.
  • Always use block cheeses and shred them yourself. The pre-shredded in a bag is coated to prevent clumping in the bag which will interfere with your cheese sauce. It’s also not as fresh.
  • Salt your water generously to cook the pasta in.

Ingredients

16 ounces elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups sharp cheddar, shredded (split)
1/2 to 1 cup smoked gouda, shredded
1/2 cup fontina, shredded
1//2 cup gruyere, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 cup panko
1 tablespoon parmesan, grated
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
optional: bacon, chopped

Instructions

1
In a large pot, salt water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and stir every now and then. Cook pasta just below al dente, about 6 minutes.
2
Strain the water and transfer the macaroni to a bowl. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil and mix. This ensures the pasta does not stick. Set aside.
3
Preheat oven to 375°F.
4
In the same pot where you cooked your pasta, start making your roux. Over medium heat, add 1/4 cup unsalted butter. Once it simmers and bubbles, add the 1/3 cup flour and stir continuously until it smells nutty and deepens in color slightly.
5
As soon as the roux is ready, add 3 cups of milk and 1 cup of heavy cream. Whisk to incorporate, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot. Make sure this does not come to a boil. Keep on whisking until it is thick enough that it coats the back end of a spoon.
6
Reduce heat to low and add just 2 cups of cheddar, smoked gouda, fontina, and gruyere. Mix to combine until it completely melts and incorporates. Take off the heat.
7
The most important step: add the sauce to your macaroni gradually, not the macaroni to your sauce. This ensures that you do not end up with macaroni that is dry or too soupy as a precaution. If there is any leftover cheese sauce, it freezes well or use it for fondue!
8
Transfer to a skillet or oven-proof dish. For more cheesiness, I add shredded cheese to my taste and mix it just a bit. Set aside.
9
In a small bowl, combine panko, parmesan, melted butter, paprika, and Italian seasoning.
10
Now sprinkle bacon on top if using and then the panko breadcrumb mixture. If you like crispy cheese on top as well, add shredded cheddar or even mozzarella.
11
Bake for 12 minutes. Then turn to broil for just 1-2 minutes to get the breadcrumbs and/or cheese toasted on top nicely.
12
Serve warm!

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