Mac and Cheese

I have a love affair with Mac and Cheese. It’s actually more of a love-hate relationship. It’s definitely one of my favorite comfort foods, but inevitably I eat too much of it and end up hating the way it makes me feel. And yet I always come crawling back for more. C’est la vie…..Mac and Cheese is such a classic dish and it’s super simple to make. The important thing to keep in mind is to use quality ingredients to make sure it’s really good. And my number one rule for good Mac and Cheese is to never, ever under any circumstance use pre-grated cheese. I know it’s convenient, but it just doesn’t taste the same. So do yourself a favor, roll up your sleeves, and get to gratin’! I should also mention this recipe isn’t for the faint of heart. I made the mistake of calculating the nutritional value the first time I made it (stupid curiosity) and let’s just say you probably shouldn’t eat this every week. Even though you’ll want to. 

What I really like about this recipe is that it has all the classic characteristics of old fashioned Mac and Cheese (creamy, cheesy, gooey) but I’ve added a little twist with a fresh and crunchy panko crumb topping that gives it both texture and flavor. Side note: I call this recipe “Mac” and Cheese, although my favorite pasta to use is called Cavatappi. To me they look like two or three macaroni pieces stuck together and the reason I like it is because Cavatappi does an excellent job of trapping all the cheesy sauce inside. I’m drooling just thinking about it. So let’s do this…..

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Start by boiling a large pot of water over medium high heat, then cover. I also like to add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to the water to give the pasta a little extra flavor, but you can leave it out. While the water boils, measure out all the ingredients, grate the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, and chop the garlic and parsley. Once the water has come to a rolling boil add the pasta and cook to al dente (slightly firm) by following the directions on the box (that’s usually 6-8 minutes depending on the type of pasta you use). Once the pasta is done pour into a large strainer and put aside. 

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Return the empty pot to the stove and melt 4 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the flour, mix together and keep stirring for a couple minutes.

Add the half & half and heavy cream to the pot and whisk to combine. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray the inside of a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. 

Now add the grated cheeses (cheddar and Parmesan) to the pot in small batches to allow the cheese to melt, stirring in between batches.

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Once you’ve added the cheddar and Parmesan, add the whipped cream cheese and stir to combine. (All the cream cheese lumps won’t completely disappear but that’s OK, it’ll melt in the oven.) Finally add the spices: dry mustard, kosher salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine. 

Add the pasta to the cheese mixture (are you hungry yet??) and stir to combine. (This is the point where I have to stop myself from eating it straight out of the pot.)

Turn off the heat and pour the pasta into the greased baking dish. 

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Lastly, prepare the panko topping by heating a small pan over medium-low heat. Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter, then add the minced garlic. Stir constantly for a minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

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Add the panko to the butter and garlic and toss together to distribute the butter evenly.

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Add the lemon zest, parsley, and grated Parmesan. Turn off the heat and stir everything together until well combined. 

Spoon all of the panko topping evenly over top of the pasta. YES!!!!!

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Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. And try not to overeat like I always do. I love you Mac and Cheese. 

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Mac and Cheese

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Classic Mac and Cheese with Panko Crumb Topping: creamy and gooey with a crunch!
Mac and Cheese
Serves 8
A classic, creamy mac and cheese with a fresh and crunchy panko topping.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb pasta (I like Cavatappi, use whatever you like!)
  2. 4 Tablespoons butter
  3. 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  4. 2 1/2 cups half & half
  5. 1 cup heavy cream
  6. 1 lb (about 6 cups) extra sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
  7. 2 oz (about 1/2 cup) parmesan, freshly grated
  8. 4 oz whipped cream cheese
  9. 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  10. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  11. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
PANKO TOPPING
  1. 1 cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
  2. 4 Tablespoons butter
  3. 3 Tablespoons finely minced parsley
  4. 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  5. Zest from 1 lemon
  6. 1 oz (about 1/4 cup) parmesan, freshly grated
Instructions
  1. Fill a large pot about 2/3 full of water. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to the water, cover, and heat over high heat to bring it to a boil.
  2. While the water boils, prep all the other ingredients: measure everything out, grate the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses, chop the garlic and parsley.
  3. Once the water has come to a rolling boil add the pasta and cook until al dente (slightly firm) by following the directions on the box (that's usually 6-8 minutes depending on the type of pasta you use). Once the pasta is done pour into a large strainer and put aside.
  4. Return the empty pot to the stove and melt 4 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Then add the flour, mix together using a whisk, and keep whisking for a couple minutes. Add the half & half and heavy cream to the pot and whisk to combine. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray the inside of a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  6. Now add the grated cheeses (cheddar and Parmesan) to the pot in small batches to allow the cheese to melt, whisking well in between batches. Once you've added the cheddar and Parmesan, add the whipped cream cheese and whisk to combine. (All the cream cheese lumps won't completely disappear but that's OK, it'll melt in the oven.)
  7. Finally add the spices: dry mustard, kosher salt, and black pepper. Stir to combine. Add the pasta to the cheese mixture and stir well.
  8. Turn off the heat and pour the pasta into the greased baking dish.
PANKO TOPPING
  1. Heat a small pan over medium-low heat. Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter, then add the minced garlic. Stir constantly for a minute, making sure the garlic doesn't burn.
  2. Add the panko to the butter and garlic and toss together to distribute the butter evenly. Add the lemon zest, parsley, and grated parmesan.
  3. Turn off the heat and stir everything together until well combined.Spoon all of the panko topping evenly over top of the pasta.
  4. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Love & Food ForEva http://loveandfoodforeva.com/

6 thoughts on “Mac and Cheese

  1. Looking forward to trying this. The panko topping sounds delicious! Love Mac and cheese, especially in this cold weather.

  2. I came on here to find this recipe after having it at Maura’s house!! It was SO GOOD!! Can’t wait to try it myself ๐Ÿ™‚

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