Who doesn’t love mac ‘n cheese? Definitely not this girl!
My mission for this weekend was simple, don’t go near Velveeta AND create something super comfort-esque that everyone could enjoy. Velveeta is usually a cheese product many families turn to that churns out creamy predictability every time. But what happens when you want something for the kids, but you want to dress up for the adults? This recipe can be served with corn all mixed in for the kids, which by the way is my favorite way to eat macaroni and cheese. Or, for adults you can add in just about any ingredients. Due to my Italian cheese choices however, I would opt for adding in Italian ingredients or ones that work well with the flavor profile like crisped prosciutto, truffle oil, sun dried tomatoes or some wilted greens.
The great cheese debate will be ongoing as to what cheeses to add to make the perfect mac ‘n cheese. For this recipe I was simply inspired by my father’s own cheese choices, but also through talking to Kym at my friendly neighborhood Wegmans store. These two helped me gather this recipe together whose flavor profile was complex, well balanced and really delicious.
Here are some things to note when choosing your own cheeses and dairy products for making cheese sauces. When making cheese sauce, low fat options can be substituted, but with care. Because there is less fat in them to help stabilize when they’re heated, they will start to separate and get a curdled effect. This result will look funny, and may be a bit gritty, but it won’t affect the overall taste. When you do go to pick out your cheeses, you can feel free to use leftovers and see what flavor profiles comes about. A good rule of thumb however is choosing one mild cheese that melts well like mozzarella or fontina, one for color that melts well like a gouda or cheddar and one with great flavor profiles that really really shine like romano or parmesan. If you want to lighten up on calories, substitute pureed cauliflower for one of your cheese.
As far as choosing the right pasta, it’s all based on preference. I like a lot of cheese so I choose to go with a vessel that can carry everything. Experiment and see what works for you!
One last thing about this recipe, I was really hungry whilst making it and didn’t wait to bake it. The recipe for cheese sauce warrants more sauce than you’ll need if you’re just mixing the sauce into the pasta and then serving. I would highly recommend being patient and baking this beauty in the oven, letting the sauces soften up your pasta and provide creamy deliciousness perfect for any evening. Enjoy!
Kat’s Four Cheese Macaroni
1 pound of cooked Pasta, preferably Girelle
4 tablespoons of unsalted Butter
4 tablespoons of All Purpose Flour
4 cups of Whole Milk, room temperature
1 tablespoon of Tumeric
1 1/2 cups of Fontina, shredded
1 cup of Romano, shredded
1 1/2 cups of Cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup of Mascarpone Cheese, or Cream Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large casserole dish and set aside.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Set aside and periodically break up pasta so it doesn’t stick together. I do recommend running under cold water so that the pasta does not continue to cook, but be careful as this can sometimes cause them to stick more together with a vengeance.
Squeeze lemon gently over each pile of cheese. This will help balance out the flavors in the end dish and help prevent excess strings of cheese. Discard lemon and allow each pile of cheese to come to room temperature for easy melting.
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt Butter. This will be the start to your roux which will help thicken the cheese sauce. Once Butter has melted, add Flour and continually whisk until all lumps are removed. Allow mixture to thicken, 3-4 minutes while continually stirring. Once roux has turned a pale golden color, slowly whisk in Milk. Add small amounts, allowing Milk to adjust to temperature and keeping all lumps at bay. Add in Tumeric to help give more color to the sauce. Allow mixture to come up to temperature by heating over medium heat. When ready, the mixture should be hot enough where it would be uncomfortable for you to stick your finger in it. It should not be simmering yet (I go by touch and this would mean heating the mixture for about 5-7 minutes).
The next step will be adding the cheeses, starting with those who need longer period in which to melt. Starting with the Romano cheese, add to mixture and continue to whisk in until melted, 3-4 minutes. Next add in your Cheddar and allow that to melt completely. Last stir in the Fontina and continue to stir until all cheese are incorporated. Bring sauce to a simmer and remove from heat. Stir in the Mascarpone Cheese until all lumps are removed. Season with Salt and Pepper to taste.
Take your cheese sauce and incorporate your Pasta. If you want to add in any extra goodies like proscuitto or wilted greens, now would be the time. Layer evenly into your casserole dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and serve!