The Mack Daddy of Mac-n-Cheese
I am drawn to macaroni-and-cheese recipes like a moth to a flame.
Over the years I’ve developed a deep and abiding affection for the simple, satisfying goodness of this dish.
As a child of the 70s, my first and only knowledge of macaroni-n-cheese was the Kraft boxed concoction of rubbery tubes coated in cheese-flavored milk. From a gustatory standpoint they were nothing special, but I did enjoy conducting breathing experiments with them at the dinner table.
During the early 90s, “cooking” for the first time in my own kitchen, I came to prefer the more sophisticated Kraft shells featuring foil-packaged cheese sauce. (I actually went so far as to publicly name this as one of my favorite foods.)
By the mid-90s I was intrigued by a mild yet excessively creamy version served by the company cafeteria – my first experience with macaroni-n-cheese that did not originate in a box.
And finally, when I started cooking in earnest sometime in the late 90s, my collection of macaroni-n-cheese recipes grew steadily. Over the years I tried myriad versions: basic, complex, mild, spicy, stove-top simmered, crumb-topped, baked – all made with a variety of cheese.
Most I enjoyed. (There was once a sauteed onion version I wasn’t crazy about.) A LARGE number purported to be the best macaroni-n-cheese recipe ever.
This weekend I stumbled upon THE ONE I believe can rightfully lay claim to that title. Perhaps it was the four cups of fontina, gouda, parmesan and cheddar; perhaps the four cups of heavy cream. Regardless, each bite was gooey, rich, cheesy nirvana.
Four Cheese Mac
Adapted from Matt Del Regno via the Cleveland Plain Dealer
(Serves 4 as main dish, 6-8 as side dish)
1/2 lb. bite-sized pasta, uncooked
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup shredded gouda cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded fontina cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup toasted bread crumbs
Butter casserole or baking dish. Cook pasta in salted, boiling water. Drain; return empty pot to medium heat. Add butter and sweat garlic over low heat until aromatic but not caramelized.
Add cream to garlic mixture and bring to boil. Stir in pasta; shut off heat. Fold cheese in gently. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer to baking dish and top with toasted bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees F. 15-25 minutes.