Mac & cheese. Two words–well, one word and one abbreviation–that together mean perfection. Kill me now so I can live a life in heaven, which I can only imagine consists of swimming in pools and lakes and seas and oceans of delicious, creamy, cheesy mac & cheese. If you can’t tell, I love macaroni and cheese. If mac & cheese wasn’t your favorite childhood food then you just might be an alien. If it isn’t one of your favorite meals to this day, then I don’t even know what to say.
I constantly praise the joys of being an adult–eating doughnuts whenever you want, dessert for breakfast, alcohol with meals or without meals or for breakfast–and reinvented mac & cheeses have to be one of the best parts. No longer is mac & cheese stale noodles in a box and “cheese” in a shiny pouch; it’s your favorite cheeses mixed into a well seasoned thick béchamel sauce made from a no-food-corporation-can-touch-this, classic white roux. The possibilities are almost endless and the differences achieved by playing with new cheeses always remind me why I love mac & cheese.
This could possibly be the 200th mac and cheese I have made. I usually always use three or four cheeses and rarely do I use the same cheeses, aside from when I find a recipe I like, such as this. I usually always use at least a couple cheddars–typically a very sharp variation.
Here I use three different cheddars for sharpness and tanginess (a sharp cheddar, extra sharp new york cheddar, and white artesian cheddar). I also use havarti to add creaminess and sweetness. The combination is fantastic. So, if you haven’t had a good mac & cheese in a while, I definitely suggest trying this recipe out. Now don’t get me wrong, I love throwing bacon or ham or tomato or broccolli or some other delicious addition in to mac & cheese, but this time I just wanted the mac & cheese. So here it is, my four cheese, only cheese, mac & cheese. Say cheese again. Cheese (I hope everyone got the Mean Girls reference there. If not drop what you’re doing and go rent Mean Girls).
Four Cheese Baked Mac & Cheese Ingredients
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
2 oz sharp cheddar
2 oz extra sharp cheddar
4 oz Artisian cheddar plus 2 oz set aside
4 oz Havarti
1/2 lb Rigatoni (or any tubular, ridged pasta)
Four Cheese Baked Mac & Cheese Instructions
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat the milk in a pot until its scalded.
2. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan (big enough to hold the cheese sauce plus all the pasta). Add the onion and saute over medium/medium-high heat until tender (about five to seven minutes)
3. Add the garlic and bay leave. Saute for another two minutes.
4. Add the flour and cook over low heat for a couple minutes to cook out the flour taste.
5. Pour the scaled milk into the roux. Simmer for ten minutes.
6. Off the heat stir in the cheeses, a little at a time (about a couple ounces at a time). Save the 2 oz of Artisian cheddar.
7. Pour the finished pasta into the cheese mixture and stir thoroughly. Pour the mac & cheese into a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over top.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden on top and the cheese is bubbly.
Be careful though. Once you pull it out of the oven, it is going to go quick. I blinked and half of it was gone!