Cheesy Mac and Cheese

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Every now and then I get an uncontrollable craving for mac and cheese. 

Since my husband’s love for cheese is limited to a chunk of Jarlsberg  or melted mozzarella on his pizza or Chicken Parm I can’t use him as the excuse for why I would make this large pan of Cheesy Mac and Cheese in the photo above.

Yep, I must admit I made it for me…although I’m always willing to share with anyone who may walk through our door, including repairmen, painters, etc… and countless times I have walked out the door and down the street carrying something hot off the stove to share with our best friends. 

They have since moved away (too far a walk now), but for 20 plus years I could always count on them to enjoy a dish I was itching  to make that wasn’t on the top of my husband’s list, or if truth be known, not on his list at all.

But you didn’t think that would keep me from making this Cheesy Mac and Cheese, did you? For someone who loves to cook and try new recipes as much as I do, I find I subscribe to that tag line for Clairol…I’m worth it!

This is the second time I’ve posted a recipe for macaroni and cheese.  The previous one  is a bit different, but I use a variety of pasta shapes and cheeses in both.

In this one I added an over- the- top amount of shredded cheese to the bechamel sauce before adding the pasta to the sauce.  It is good enough to eat right there and then, or you can pour it into an augratin dish, cover it with Panko (coarse Japanese bread crumbs), and bake it off in the oven.

Either way…it is one cheesylicious Mac and Cheese!

Cheezy Mac and Cheese

(adapted from Homeroom’s Classic Macaroni and Cheese Recipe)

Ingredients

For the bechamel:                                                                               
4 cups whole milk (I used 3 cups skim and 1 cup half and half)

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons kosher salt (to taste)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

To assemble:

Kosher salt

2 pounds assorted pasta (I used penne, cellantani, and gemelli)

8 ounces shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese

8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese

4 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese

4 ounces shredded Asiago cheese

2/3 cup panko (optional)

For  the bechamel:

1.  Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it just comes to a simmer, then turn off the heat and set aside.

2.In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown in color, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

3.  While whisking constantly, slowly add the hot milk to the flour mixture until evenly combined and smooth. (It will get very thick when you first add the milk, then thin out.)

4.  Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and while whisking constantly, cook until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in 2 to 3 teaspoons of the salt, taste, and add the remaining salt as desired. Stir in the cayenne and nutmeg.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

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To Assemble:
1.  Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until it’s almost al dente (just on the edge of being underdone), then drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

(If you plan to top the mac and cheese with panko and bake it, heat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle.)

2. Place the reserved saucepan of bechamel over the medium heat and stir in the cheeses just until melted and smooth.  Add the pasta and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is heated through and steaming, about 2 to 4 minutes.

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Serve immediately, or, if baking, transfer to a large baking dish, sprinkle with the panko, and bake until bubbling and brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes.

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