Discovering I have a surplus of various leftover cheeses in the drawer in my fridge always inspires and justifies me doing one thing…making a pan of mac and cheese!
While I already have a couple recipes for yummy mac and cheese on the blog you know I am always interested in trying or adapting new recipes.
In the November issue of Saveur magazine I found the inspiration for my Creamy Mac and Cheese you see in the photo above.
I used a combination of white cheddar, Fontina, and Monterey Jack cheeses along with a mixture of whole milk, skim milk and half and half. I often find that mixing non fat milk with whole milk and/or cream will give you the rich taste without all the fat.
The addition of the minced onions sauteed in butter, a half onion studded with cloves, and a couple of bay leaves in this recipe gave me pause as I have never included those ingredients in my previous mac and cheese dishes, but then I thought all the more reason why I should try it.
And I wasn’t sorry. It added a subtle layer of flavor to the sauce that I loved, and by straining the finished sauce, the resulting sauce remains very creamy, fully blanketing the pasta.
As soon as it came out of the oven I helped myself to a taste which somehow turned into a large section missing from the pan before it even had a chance to cool.
I packed up some to take to my son and his girlfriend in LA whom we were visiting the next day, and quickly froze the rest until my other son and his girlfriend come to visit us next.
You might say I don’t trust myself with an entire pan of this yummy stuff sitting around, or I’m just a good Mom???
Here’s the recipe…and do allow yourself to be creative with whatever cheeses and milk/cream you prefer and/or have on hand. Just be sure to include a favorite creamy type cheese such as the Fontina I used here.
Creamy Mac and Cheese
(adapted from the recipe for Macaroni au Gratin, Saveur, Nov, 2014)
1 to 1 and 1/4 pound macaroni ( I used a combination of Ziti and Cellentani (a pasta tube that has been twisted to resemble the shape of a corkscrew)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion (1/2 minced, 1/2 whole)
1 cup flour
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
8 cups whole milk ( or a combination of whole, skim and half and half)
1 and 1/2 pounds combination of Fontina, white cheddar, and Monterey Jack, grated
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh nutmeg
1/4 cup Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Cook pasta in a 6- 8 qt. saucepan or stockpot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to pkg directions. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of butter and set aside.
Add remaining butter to the pan; melt over medium-high.
Cook minced onions until golden, 6-8 minutes.
Stir in flour; cook 3 minutes.
Stud remaining onion half with cloves and add to the pan with the bay leaves.
Add milk/cream, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve over the pasta.
Stir in 3/4 of the cheese, the nutmeg, salt and pepper; transfer to a 9”by 13” baking dish.
Top with remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs; bake until golden and bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes.